Community shocked by 14-year-old's death

A RURAL community has been left in shock as a result of the coach tragedy in Germany.Prayers for the families and friends of those involved in the crash were offered yesterday at parish churches throughout Suffolk.

By David Green

A RURAL community has been left in shock as a result of the coach tragedy in Germany.

Prayers for the families and friends of those involved in the crash were offered yesterday at parish churches throughout Suffolk.

At Thomas Mills High School there was a stream of people, many of them children, placing bouquets of flowers and messages on the ground outside the main entrance.

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Staff, exhausted by the events of the previous 24 hours, turned up at the school to offer help where needed.

John Hibberd, deputy head, said the school was in the midst of a strong, close-knit community in Framlingham.

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“Children, parents and staff are rallying round. Strong communities like ours have a way of dealing with these things,” he said.

Mr Hibberd said staff on the coach had been very impressed with the way pupils responded to the crash and how they “pulled together” to help each other get through the hours that followed.

“The staff accompanying the trip, together with the German authorities and the coach company, all responded wonderfully.

“The pupils all behaved superbly. We are all very proud of them,” Mr Hibberd said.

“We are a strong community and we will come through this but nothing can make up for the death of a child.”

Staff, clergy and specialist counsellors will remain on call during the week-long half term holiday to provide support for distressed pupils.

Headmaster, Colin Hirst and a group of teachers attended the 9.30am service in St Michael's Church, Framlingham, conducted by Rev Graham Owen, priest-in-charge of the parish. Three tearful youngsters were also among the congregation at the 11.15 service.

“We said prayers for Stuart and his family, for the school and for the pupils and the teachers,” said Mr Owen.

“We prayed for everyone involved in this tragic accident.”

He added: “Framlingham is a very close-knit community and we have taken it very hard.

“Our job now is to be here for people if they need us. As simple as that. It is early days yet and we have the half-term holiday next week so we will be available for people if they need us.”

Both Mr Owen and Mr Hirst were at Thomas Mills on Saturday - with other members of staff - as details of the accident unfolded.

And they both welcomed the children when they arrived back at the school in the early hours after travelling home from Cologne.

Mr Owen said: “The children were amazing really. They were extremely tired. I was there to offer support and I talked to a number of the parents.

“The school is on holiday this week but I will be available for anyone who needs me and I am making arrangements to be part of a special assembly at the school when the term resumes the week after next.”

Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, sent his condolences to Stuart's family and the relatives of the assistant bus driver who also died in the crash.

He said: “My thoughts and prayers are with all caught up in this tragic accident, especially the bereaved families.

“I'm sure that the staff of Thomas Mills High School and Suffolk County Council will do all they can to support the pupils and families at this time.”

Stephanie Bennell , chairman of Framlingham Town Council, said: “The whole town is very shocked by what happened and our condolences go to everyone involved.

“The tragedy affects so many people and is especially traumatic for those who were on the trip.”

Sid Vyce , who has lived in Framlingham for more than 40 years and is a life vice-president of the town's football club, said the involvement of the local high school in such a tragedy had shocked everyone, adults and children alike.

“It is the kind of thing you always expect to happen somewhere else - not in your own community,” he said.

Framlingham yesterday carried on with its daily life with quiet dignity.

One elderly lady, who asked not to be named, said everyone was very sad.

“All those on the coach were at the start of a holiday they were expecting to enjoy and then such a tragic thing happened,” she said.

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