Girl dies after coach crashes in snowstorm
Shock after school trip to Alton Towers set off despite 'horrendous' conditions
Residents of a town mourning the death of a schoolgirl killed in a coach crash amid "horrendous" weather conditions were last night astounded that the bus had been allowed to travel.
Natasha Paton, 17, died as a coach plunged off an icy bridge during a snowstorm and into a river, throwing the girl from the vehicle and coming to rest on top of her. Three other passengers on the coach, which had been taking children from Lanark Grammar School in South Lanarkshire on an outing to Alton Towers, were seriously injured and another 40 were hurt.
The accident took place as heavy snow and high winds swept across Scotland, Northern Ireland and some high-lying areas of northern England leaving road conditions treacherous and tens of thousands of homes without electricity.
Police said driving conditions were horrendous at the time of the crash and that it was clear snow "had a part to play" in the accident which killed Natasha, of Cleghorn, South Lanarkshire, when the bus came off the A73 at Wiston, Lanarkshire, after travelling 12 miles from the school. Five of the injured remained in hospital last night in a stable condition.
The teenage girl's parents said last night: "We are devastated at the loss of our beloved daughter. Natasha was a typical teenager and very popular with lots of friends and will be greatly missed by all who knew her."
Susan Thornton, whose son Adam had intended to join the outing but was kept at home because of the appalling weather conditions, expressed surprise yesterday that the trip had gone ahead.
"When I woke it was clear that it had been snowing through the night because of the level of snow. It was bad enough at midnight for me to consider him not going," she said.
George Hamilton was among residents in Lanark who couldn't believe the outing hadn't been cancelled. "I think it will make a lot of people think why did it happen when it could have been prevented?"
A spokeswoman for South Lanarkshire Council said it would be wrong to draw premature conclusions about the cause of the crash: "What we do know is that many of our school buses were out this morning taking children to schools including Lanark Grammar. The roads had been gritted throughout the night and the traffic was moving."
The blizzards which swept across Scotland left more than 20,000 homes cut off from electricity supplies yesterday morning while in Northern Ireland up to 100,000 customers were cut off.
Train services on the East Coast line north of Berwick were suspended because of landslips, while there was chaos on roads, including the M90 and M8, while parts of the A68 and A96 had to be closed.
Snow drifted to depths of more than 20 inches in places and forecaster warned that wintry blasts will continue through the Easter weekend.
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