St Jude’s Day storm: Talented schoolgirl (17) crushed as she slept in mobile home
Published 28/10/2013 | 17:48
A gifted schoolgirl with "everything to look forward to" was killed when a huge tree toppled on to her mobile home as she slept in a fierce storm.
Bethany Freeman, nicknamed Gia, was crushed as the 30ft tree fell down amid high winds in Lydens Lane, Hever, near Edenbridge, Kent, at 7.18am.
Neighbours told how some came forward with chainsaws to try to help free the trapped 17-year-old talented sports fan but she was declared dead.
Bethany and her family were living in the mobile homes while renovation work was taking place at their home, according to local people.
As news of her death swept the rural community, her driving instructor Neil Chapman turned up outside her home unaware she had been killed.
A visibly shocked Mr Chapman told reporters as he arrived to pick her up: "I was teaching Bethany to drive. I'd just arrived not realising all this had happened.
"I can't believe it. What a shock. She was a super kid. She was a great girl, good fun. I can't believe it. There's not much else I can say, really, I can't believe it.
"She was 17, a very lively girl, very sporty. We used to chat about cricket because I was into cricket and she was the only girl I knew into cricket.
"Her family must be so devastated. I can't believe it."
The tragedy came as winds of up to 100mph swept through parts of Britain, uprooting trees, knocking out power supplies and crippling transport networks.
One of Bethany's neighbours, who declined to be named, said: "(The family) were planning to join up their two buildings, and they were living in the caravans in order to do it.
"They had been living there for one and a half years, but I don't know how many of them there are. She was in one caravan, and mum was in another caravan.
"I don't know who else was there. At the end of the day the tree has come down. I won't criticise anyone working there but not one of the emergency services had a chainsaw.
"It came down to the locals having chainsaws in order to cut a gap and also the local farmer having lifting gear."
Another neighbour, who also did not want to be named, said: "We cannot believe the tragedy of it all. From what I gather, they had some buildings which they were renovating and they were living in the caravans.
"A lady came up to ask to borrow a chainsaw. We didn't even realise that it was a fatality until long afterwards. We just assumed that the young girl was going to be OK."
Bethany was an upper sixth form pupil at Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School (TWGGS) where teachers described her as "universally respected" and with "everything to look forward to".
A sports enthusiast, she represented the county and local clubs in hockey, cricket and netball, and she was said to be a "dedicated and truly outstanding sportswoman".
In a statement, Bethany's school said: "Through her hard work and enthusiasm for sport she will never be forgotten.
"Her close friends and teachers, as well as the wider school community, will miss her beyond measure, and the school will do all we can to support girls as they struggle to come to terms with Beth's untimely death.
"All our thoughts and love are with Beth's parents and brothers at this saddest of times."
A Kent Police spokesman said: "Police were called to Hever, Edenbridge, at 7:18am this morning following a report that a teenage girl was seriously injured after a tree fell onto the static home she was sleeping in.
"Kent Fire and Rescue Service and South East Coast Ambulance Service were called to the scene. Sadly the 17-year-old died. The incident is not being treated as suspicious."