Pupil died while taking shelter - inquest

A MODEL pupil was crushed to death by a tree which may not have been properly maintained, his devastated parents claimed at an inquest yesterday.

A MODEL pupil was crushed to death by a tree which may not have been properly maintained, his devastated parents claimed at an inquest yesterday.

Eleven-year-old Daniel Mullinger, from Stanway, near Colchester, died during a school trip to Felbrigg Hall near Cromer in June last year.

The youngster had been taking part in an orienteering exercise when a branch measuring 75ft (23m) fell on him and three other pupils.

Christine Clarke, a teacher from Heathland Church of England School in West Bergholt, had been supervising the trip.

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She relived his final moments yesterday at the opening of a coroner's inquest at Norwich's Assembly House.

She said: “We were walking along following the clues. They were all being very sensible, possibly one of the most sensible groups I have ever had. It started to rain so I said 'lets move to the side of the path to the shelter of the tree'.

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“I heard a sound which I can only describe as the creaking of a heavy door in a horror movie. I didn't know what it was but I believe I shouted 'run'.

“I didn't see it falling. The next thing I remember is it lying on the ground. It was so big I thought it was a whole tree that had fallen.

“I realised it was very serious. It was clear Daniel was trapped and there was no sign of life. The other three children were injured as well.”

Ms Clarke went on to describe Daniel as a model pupil.

“I know this is what people always say about people in these circumstances, but he honestly was the perfect pupil,” she said. “He was bright, he was well behaved and I could not remember a single occasion when I had to reprimand him. I know his parents were very proud of him.”

The inquest heard how teachers from the school, two elderly passers-by and representatives from the Aylmerton Field Studies Centre, which had organised the trip, tried desperately to give the children first aid while they waited to the emergency services to arrive.

A tearful Wendy Mullinger, Daniel's mother, said he had been looking forward to the trip for days.

Mrs Mullinger added: “The first I heard about the accident was when two uniformed officers arrived at our door.

“We are happy the school did everything they could after the accident. But we have concerns about the National Trust and about what happened before the accident.”

An arboriculturist's report carried out after the accident found it “had not been foreseeable”.

The tree was in an area classed as “medium risk” and had been inspected six months earlier and found to be safe.

However, Mrs Mullinger said research carried out since had found that the beach tree was prone to “summer branch drop” and should have been maintained and monitored by the National Trust.

Fellow pupil Harry Bowen, 11, who suffered pelvic and internal injuries, still uses a wheelchair as a result of the accident.

Katie Farthing, 11, and Max Farley, 10, were also injured during the five day trip, which was attended by 59 children.

Aylmerton Field Studies organises trips for about 4,500 children each year, most of whom take part in the Monster Trail orienteering exercise.

The inquest continues today.

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