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The Times

They wrote this shower of insulting shite.


A 13-year-old girl has died after she was hit by a falling branch while relaxing in a park because her school had been closed by yesterday’s strike.

Sophie Howard was sitting on a bench with friends in the park in Yaxley, near Peterborough, when she was hit by the foot-thick branch falling from the poplar tree.

They were in Middletons Road Recreation Ground because their school, Sawtry Community College in Huntingdon, had shut for the day citing health and safety concerns after teachers walked out in protest over planned changes to their pensions.

Two off-duty doctors at a nearby surgery ran over to help, while the ambulance service dispatched a fast response car, an ambulance and an ambulance officer to the sports ground.

Despite their efforts, Sophie died shortly afterwards at Peterborough City Hospital. The area around the tree was cordoned off while the branch and the bench were removed. The Health and Safety Executive has been informed.

The parish council, which maintains the trees in the park, had had tree surgeons pollard the 50ft poplar last year following concerns that its branches posed a risk.

Sophie, a year eight pupil, is survived by her twin brother, Elliott. They lived near the park with their parents, Martin, 49, and Laura Howard.

Today Mr and Mrs Howard issued a statement paying tribute to their daughter and suggesting that they did not blame the strikes for her death.

“Sophie was a beautiful girl who had so many friends and we will miss her with all our heart,” they 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. 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.”

Sawtry Community College paid tribute to “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,” the college said in a statement.

“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.

“Sophie’s loss is a tragedy and our thoughts are with her family and friends today and in the weeks to come, as they struggle to cope with this tragic event.”

The college has drafted in professional counsellors to help Sophie’s friends deal with their grief. With the backing of her parents, the college also intends to mount an event to celebrate her life.

Dozens of shocked children and their parents gathered in the park throughout yesterday afternoon, laying flowers and tributes beside the tree.

David Kemp, 66, who lives on the same estate as Sophie’s family, said: “I have been a taxi driver in Yaxley for 25 years and I used to take children to school. 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. All the local families are really devastated.

”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. This is so sad I could cry.”

Ann Rees, a parish councillor, said she went to the recreation ground shortly after the accident. “It is an absolutely awful thing to happen,” she said. “I don’t think anybody could believe what has happened to this poor girl.

“The police asked me if we could help them to take some of the tree away, so I went down with another councillor at 4pm and helped them to cut it so it could be taken away.

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