Girl killed as coach crashes in 'atrocious' weather

A schoolgirl who died today when a coach carrying a party of teenagers on a trip to a theme park crashed has been named by police.

Natasha Paton, 17, from Cleghorn, near Lanark, was in a group heading for Alton Towers in Staffordshire when their bus crashed on a bridge and plunged into a stream during a snowstorm.

Three others on the trip from Lanark Grammar School, South Lanarkshire, were seriously injured and NHS Lanarkshire said a total of 44 people had received hospital treatment following the crash.

Police said the cause of the accident was still under investigation, but given the "horrendous" weather conditions in the area, it was clear snow "had a part to play".

The bus had only been on the road for about 12 miles when the driver lost control on the icy surface and crashed through the bridge wall, plunging 10ft into the river below.

Natasha is thought to have been thrown out of the vehicle as it careered down the embankment and was trapped underneath when it came to a rest.

Fire and rescue service workers who arrived at the scene were forced to rescue the other passengers through the sun roof.

The driver was trapped inside the bus and had to be stretchered out by emergency workers.

By lunchtime, 25 of the injured had been allowed to go home while 19 remained in various hospitals around Lanarkshire and Glasgow. All the patients were said to be in a stable condition.

Iain Heggison, whose house is near the accident scene, described the crash as a nightmare.

He said: "I heard a bang. I went outside and that's when I noticed the bus in the burn.

"It was lying on its side. It was packed with kids. They were crying and hysterical. It was horrible.

"I thought I was dreaming but this is a nightmare, total nightmare."

The annual trip was organised by the school as a pre-Easter break from exam studies for sixth-year pupils.

But one mother said she was surprised it went ahead. Susan Thornton decided not to allow her son Adam to go on the outing because of the weather.

Asked if she was surprised the trip had gone ahead, she told the BBC News channel: "I was very surprised. It was midnight when I made the decision.

"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."

South Lanarkshire Council education director Larry Forde said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of one of our senior students at Lanark Grammar who died this morning, and all who were injured.

"The headteacher Mark Sherry and everyone connected with the school wish to express their sympathies to all those involved.

"At this moment, our major focus is on the young people, their families and staff within the school.

"Social work and psychological services have joined staff at the school offering support."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond both passed on condolences.

Mr Brown said: "At a time when winter weather has returned in spring to many parts of the country, our thoughts are with the families and the friends of those children of Lanark Grammar School who have been seriously injured this morning in a bus accident in the north of our country."

Mr Salmond added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this terrible incident, including all the staff and students of Lanark Grammar School.

"My heart goes out in particular to the relatives and friends of the girl who so tragically lost her life and those who have suffered injury.

"The priority is clearly dealing with the immediate situation, while whatever inquiries may be necessary will, of course, take place."

The bus involved in the crash was operated by Lanarkshire-based company Photoflash.

Owner Alan Purdie told Radio Clyde: "It is a tragedy. We are all deeply concerned for the parents (of the dead girl) this morning. The company is distraught."

Emergency services moved the bus this afternoon.

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