School bus crash victim was celebrating her 16th birthday

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The Independent Online

A girl killed when her school bus crashed into a car in Cumbria had been celebrating her 16th birthday, it emerged yesterday.

Police named Chloe Walker, 16, and Kieran Goulding, 15, as the two teenagers killed in the accident. Patrick Short, 68, who was driving the Honda Civic car involved in the collision, was also killed.

Nine children remain in hospital, two in a serious condition, after the 49-seater bus taking pupils home from Keswick School crashed on the A66 near Bassenthwaite Lake on Monday.

Miss Walker's brother died in 2007 from the degenerative condition Sanfilippo, which was diagnosed when he was seven. It is understood that the parents had only two children.

Michael Chapman, the headteacher of Keswick School, said staff and pupils had been left devastated by the tragedy. Speaking about the double pain of the Walker family, he added: "I cannot begin to describe how I would feel in those circumstances." He said the school will try to "carry on as normal" – and some of the pupils had no choice but to sit their English Literature A-level exam today as planned.

Mr Chapman added that three teachers who were at the scene looked "very, very shaken" on Monday night but had returned to work yesterday. He said his feelings about the crash were "indescribable".

"We have a very large number of distressed children, we have a very large number of distressed staff, some of whom were down at the scene yesterday afternoon. We are all going to pull together," he said. The coach was carrying children back to their homes in and around Cockermouth when it crashed. Police are investigating suggestions that the bus, which was travelling on the correct side of the road, had swerved to avoid an oncoming car which had crossed into its lane.

Several witnesses spoke of hearing "a loud bang" as the coach was flipped on to its side. Cumbria Police said 25 other people were treated for injuries, most of them children. Some suffered cuts and fractures but others have more serious spinal injuries. The coach driver, a 63-year-old man from nearby Egremont, is in hospital and said to be in a stable condition.

Children from the same school who were travelling on a minibus behind the coach rushed to help their classmates. Police Chief Superintendent Steve Johnson praised their actions, saying they "had not thought about themselves". "They went straight to the aid of their friends and colleagues and did an incredible job," he said.

The crash happened just over a mile away from the school, and as the news spread back, many pupils still on the campus ran down the road to help. A special assembly was held at the school yesterday to remember the dead children. The local council also brought in a team of educational psychologists to support pupils.

Describing the teenagers who died, Mr Chapman said: "All I can say is they were Keswick School children and that makes them the most wonderful children in the world."

Tributes were also paid to Mr Short, from Braithwaite. His wife, Wendy, described him as a "generous, principled man". "He loved me and the family and was committed to his work with Barnardo's. As a parish councillor, chair of Cumbria Rural Choirs and a former church warden, he was dedicated to the local community," she said.

The accident took place at a traffic black spot where drivers join the A66 trunk road, often underestimating the speed of the traffic. Several major crashes have occurred there in recent years, despite the introduction of traffic calming measures.

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