An elderly couple killed when a landslide engulfed their car on their way home from a night out may have survived if they had a coffee after their meal, according to a restaurant worker.
Jane Fox, who served Rosemary Snell and her male companion, said they decided to skip coffee and head home on the evening of July 7 because of the appalling weather.
The maitre d' of the Bridge House Hotel in Beaminster, Dorset, said the couple were regular visitors and had enjoyed a two-course dinner but were eager to get away that night following their romantic meal.
She said Ms Snell's companion paid the bill in the hotel's restaurant, the Beaminster Brasserie, before the pair headed to their car.
"Several of our guests had cancelled their reservation that night, because of appalling weather," she said. "However Ms Snell and her friend braved the atrocious conditions and managed to reach the hotel earlier that evening.
"But they then wanted to leave early, and she said 'we'll skip coffee because we really want to get off' so they left.
"If they had the coffee, they would still have been here. They were a genuinely nice couple, who were always very chatty and interested in each other. Ms Snell always appeared immaculately dressed, they were simply a pleasure to serve and have as our guests."
Ms Snell, a stalwart of the Women's Institute, and her partner left the hotel at about 10pm. It is believed the landslide - just a mile and a half away at the entrance to the Beaminster Tunnel - happened less than 10 minutes later.
Ms Fox, 61, said shortly after the couple left, kitchen and reception staff followed minutes later, but by that time the landslip had occurred and they were forced to turn back, unaware that Ms Snell and her partner had been caught in the mud and rubble.
Ms Snell and her friend visited the Bridge House Hotel restaurant three or four times a year, hotel owner Mark Donovan said.