Judge's family 'still utterly bereft' after girl's death

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The Independent Online

A senior judge spoke yesterday of how his family remained "utterly bereft" after the death of his 16-year-old daughter in an adventure holiday accident.

Amelia Ward was on a Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award trip to South Africa when she was struck and killed by a rock during an abseiling exercise.

Yesterday, after an inquest returned a verdict of accidental death, Sir Alan Ward, a Lord Justice of Appeal, said: "The sorry facts surrounding this tragedy are now significantly clearer than they were in August but we do not wish to comment on them."

He praised Kate, Amelia's twin, for coping with her loss with "admirable fortitude" and the City of London School for Girls "for their support to Kate during this difficult time".

Sir Alan, who attended the inquest with his family friend Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said of Kate: "We are very, very proud of her. It is our single solace. Otherwise we are, as we were in August, still incredulous, still utterly bereft."

Westminster coroner's court was told that Amelia and her group had been climbing on a 60ft crag at Zingela in KwaZulu-Natal on 18 August last year when some of the girls descended to the bottom to judge its height. A rock was dislodged as a boy went to abseil, explained Catherine Kingscote, a director of Outpost, the company that organised the trip. "Before [the supervisor] was able to shout, it had hit Amelia and there was screaming coming from the bottom that someone had been hit."

Amelia died almost immediately from a fractured skull.

Mrs Kingscote told the court that she had insisted that helmets were worn during abseiling, despite this not being a regulation in South Africa. Amelia was not wearing a helmet because she was not abseiling at the time and not thought to be in danger.

The coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, said: "It was not clear to Mark Calverley [the supervisor] what [the girls] intended to do, and herein is the tragedy where I think they thought one thing and he thought something else." While praising such activities, he added that risks should be minimised.

"Hindsight is a malevolent gift for those bent on retribution, but retribution does not seem to be a feature of this case I am pleased to say."

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