Wimbledon crash: End-of-term celebrations turn to nightmare as car ploughs into school, killing girl, 8

Woman in her forties arrested after Land Rover crashes into pupils’ tea party

Holly Evans
Friday 07 July 2023 05:04 BST
Police officer fights back tears as she announces death of eight-year-old at Wimbledon school

A day that started in celebration quickly descend into horror as a Land Rover ploughed through a primary school fence and into a tea party, killing a girl, 8, and injuring 15 others.

Sitting around picnic tables in the grounds of The Study Preparatory School in Wimbledon pupils and staff were caught unaware when the powerful 4x4 smashed into the garden, inflicting catastrophic injuries on those in its path.

Horrific aerial pictures show the car was finally brought to a halt when it rammed into a wall of the building, surrounded by benches where the victims had been enjoying a celebration to mark the last day of term at the southwest London school before the summer holidays.

Discarded cups and food could be seen strewn across the ground, as firefighters and paramedics stood near a gap in the fencing at the entrance of the site to assess the damage.

Emergency services were called at 9.54am and quickly realised the severity of the situation, with the London Air Ambulance, the London Fire Brigade and paramedics scrambled to the scene. A command centre was set up at the local golf club.

Police and emergency services attend the scene (Getty)

Some 16 people were treated at the scene in the immediate aftermath, while 10 were rushed to local hospitals. An unspecified number remain there, with their conditions unknown.

Detective Chief Superintendent Clair Kelland fought back tears at a press conference at the scene, her voice breaking as she confirmed: “Very sadly, one of the children, an eight-year-old girl, died at the scene.”

A woman in her forties was arrested at the scene on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and she was being questioned by police on Thursday night. The incident is not being treated as suspicious and police confirmed it was not terror-related.

As the morning went on, an increasing number of desperate parents appeared at the police cordon to collect their children. Several were in tears while others clasped each other’s hands and shared hugs before they were escorted by police officers to their vehicles.

Police officers investigate the scene of the crash on the edge of Wimbledon Common (AP)

A local resident, who did not wish to be named, had been golfing when he was informed that a major incident had taken place at the school.

“We walked back to the clubhouse, and I heard someone was driving a car and had a seizure and drove through the school gates when they were playing in the playground,” he said.

He added that teachers and pupils who were being temporarily looked after by the golf club were “absolutely traumatised”.

Located at the corner of Wimbledon Common, the school for girls aged four to 11, which charges £5,565 per term, is “well-known” and “well-respected” in the area.

One elderly gentleman said the incident was “heartbreaking” and that the school had always been full of “lovely” pupils who could be heard playing during term times.

Parents embrace as they gather to collect their children (Getty)
An air ambulance was scrambled to the scene (Getty)

Stephen Hammond, the Conservative MP for Wimbledon, whose daughter previously attended the school, told The Independent: “It was very clear, very quickly, that it was a major incident and the local police declared it just that.

“I think you will have seen from the sheer scale of the response from the paramedics, air ambulance, fire brigade and the police, what an important and serious incident this is.

“And what a sad incident – it is tragically on the last day of term, for this young girl to have lost her life.”

Appearing at the press conference, John Tucker, the chair of governors at the school, said those at the school had all been “profoundly affected by the tragedy”.

Downing Street said the prime minister’s “deepest condolences are with the family of the girl who has tragically lost her life”. The spokesperson said: “His thoughts are with all those injured and involved in the horrific collision in Wimbledon this morning.

“This will have been a terrifying experience for all of the children, staff and parents.”

The Land Rover Defender, models of which cost upwards of £60,000, was loaded on a police truck covered in a green tarpaulin and driven away past broken and bent metal railings on Thursday evening.

Dozens of police were sent to the scene (AP)

The police cordon outside the school has been reduced but the investigation to determine the circumstances behind the tragic incident is ongoing.

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