Falling branch kills schoolgirl in Yaxley park

Reporter Mike Cartwright has been speaking to eyewitnesses

A 13-year-old schoolgirl has died after being hit by a 15ft falling tree branch in Cambridgeshire.

Sophie Howard was a pupil at Sawtry Community College, which had been closed for the day because of a strike.

She was treated by paramedics at the scene at Middletons Road Recreation Ground, Yaxley, on Thursday afternoon but died later in hospital.

Sophie's parents, Martin and Laura Howard said in a statement they would "miss her with all our heart".

Their statement, issued by Cambridgeshire Police, said: "Sophie was a beautiful girl who had so many friends.

'Popular young lady'

"She was enthusiastic at school and liked English. She was an excellent runner and enjoyed running the Race for Life for charity.

"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."

A statement from Sawtry college said Sophie had been a bright and popular student.

It read: "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.

Tree in park The tree stands in a park overlooked by Sophie's former primary school
Tragic event

"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."

Professional counsellors were in the school and would continue to be available for students next week.

The college confirmed an event to celebrate Sophie's life would be held at some point in the future, but a date had not yet been set.

Floral tributes have been left beneath the tree where Sophie was hit by the branch and hundreds of people have joined a tribute page to Sophie on Facebook.

A minute's silence was held at Sophie's former primary school which overlooks the park where she died.

A vigil was due to be held in the park on Friday afternoon.

A Cambridgeshire Police spokesperson said: "We were called to an incident at Middletons Road Recreation Ground in Yaxley at 1440 BST.

"Officers attended the scene where a girl had been hit by a falling tree branch.

"She was taken to Peterborough City Hospital where she later died."

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is looking into the incident.

A spokesman said: "The HSE has been informed of the incident and is making inquiries, in conjunction with the police."

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