Girl, 13, crushed to death by a falling branch as she sat on park bench on the day her teachers went out on strike
- Complaints had been made to the council about 'dangerous' tree
Last updated at 5:56 PM on 1st July 2011
Sophie Howard, 13, was hit by the falling 1ft-thick branch as she sat on a park bench in Yaxley, Peterborough
The 13-year-old, named locally as Sophie Howard, was out with friends on the day her school was closed because of nationwide industrial action.
After the 1ft-thick branch from a poplar tree in Yaxley, Peterborough, fell on her from the 50ft tree two doctors from a nearby surgery helped treat her.
The girl, who has a twin brother, was taken to hospital but died from her injuries.
Police had last night cordoned off the area of the park where the incident happened.
The girl went to Sawtry Community College which was shut yesterday as thousands of teachers across the country went on strike.
One angry parent wrote on Twitter afterwards: 'she should have been safe at school, she was just sat on a bench talking with friends....it could have been my daughter.'
A mother-of-three who went to the park after hearing about the accident revealed Sophie's parents dashed to the scene after the branch fell.
She said: 'They called the mother and father and they came to the tree. The mother fell on the floor in despair.
'The family and the whole community are devastated. The doctors tried to resuscitate Sophie for at least 20 minutes.
'The fact is if the teachers were not on strike Sophie would have been at school and this would not have happened.
'I heard she was sat on the bench with some friends. They heard a loud noise, like thunder and one told the others to move, but Sophie couldn't move fast enough. It is a tragedy.'
The chairman of the parish council which manages the park today admitted there had been concerns about the safety of the trees in the autumn.
A family friend said that complaints had been made to the council about 'dangerous' trees.
The man, who asked not to be named, said: 'We contacted the council about the trees out here being dangerous, some of them grew up and dropped leaves in the gutter.
'Some were also hanging over the park.
Grief: Friends of schoolgirl Sophie Howard visit the park where she was killed by a tree branch
Gathering: Hundreds of children are left in shock as they meet to pay tribute to Sophie
He also added that the town had experienced a lightning storm two days before the tragic incident.
David Kemp, 66, a retired taxi driver who lives on the same estate as Sophie's family, described the twins as 'adorable'.
He said: 'They were a lovely and very close family. They were always very polite.
'I remember when Sophie's parents taught her and her twin brother how to ride their bikes. The twins were adorable.
'She was only in the park because the teachers were on strike and the school was closed.
'She was just sat on the bench with some friends. The doctors surgery is only 100 yards away so they rushed out to try and save her, but they couldn't.'
The girl's friends gathered in the park which is popular with families after the accident and waited for an update about her condition before they were later told that she was dead.
Her parents were not there at the time but went to the park after they had been told of the accident.
The teenager died after a branch fell from this tree yesterday
Strike day tragedy: Sophie Howard, left, was not at the school that day because of national industrial action
Sophie's best friend laid a bouquet of pink roses and a heart-shaped photograph of them together.
The note read: 'I will always remember you as my kind and loving best friend and I will forever miss you dearly.
'I know you are at peace and up above with the angels.'
Chairman of the parish council David Youles said the tree had to have branches cropped in the autumn after concerns about its safety.
He said: 'I can assure you everything possible was done to regularly maintain and inspect all trees in the park.
'There is an inquiry and ongoing police investigation but all our sympathies go to the family of the girl as this was a horrible and nasty incident.
'No one has came to the council to report anything about this tree. We would have a record of any complaint and any councillor would have asked them to put it in writing.'
Sophie's parents Martin, 49, and Laura said her twin brother Elliott is 'suffering greatly' following her death.
'Sophie was a beautiful girl who had so many friends and we will miss her with all our heart,' their statement said.
'She was enthusiastic at school and liked English. She loved music, especially JLS and Jessie J.
'She was an excellent runner and enjoyed running the Race for Life for charity. She was a typical girlie girl and loved socialising, make-up and fashion.
Tragedy: Sophie died while out with friends in the park
Friends have been laying flowers at the scene following the tragedy
'Her friends were very important to her.
'We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our friends and family for their support at this difficult time. Sophie has a twin brother who is also suffering greatly.
'Our beloved daughter's death was a tragic incident, which occurred only 24 hours ago, and we do not want it to be connected to any other events.
'We politely ask that our privacy be respected at this time and we will not be issuing anything further.'
A statement from Sawtry Community College, the school Sophie attended, said: 'Sophie was a popular young lady who approached her time at the college with poise and maturity.
'She was bright and cheerful and was held in high regard by all those who knew her, especially her friends and teachers.
'She was an extremely able student who appeared to have a great future in front of her. She worked hard and had made excellent progress during her time in the college.'
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Police said: 'Officers attended the scene where a girl had been injured by a falling tree branch.
'She was taken to Peterborough City Hospital by ambulance where she later died.
'A cordon has been placed around the site, but it is not being treated as suspicious and the case will now be passed onto the coroner for the girl to be identified.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2010193/Teachers-strike-Sophie-Howard-13-killed-falling-branch-school-closed.html#ixzz1QsF7igyx