UK Storm: Tributes To Bethany Freeman, Schoolgirl Killed By Falling Tree In Kent

Firefighters battled desperately to free a teenager trapped in a caravan as hurricane-force winds sent a tree crashing down on the room where she slept.

Bethany Freeman was crushed as the 30ft tree fell down in Lydens Lane, Hever, near Edenbridge, Kent, at 7.18am on Monday.

Kent Police, Kent Fire and Rescue Service and South East Coast Ambulance Service were called to the scene, but Bethany was pronounced dead. Neighbours claimed rescue services did not have the right equipment to free the trapped girl, and locals had to provide chainsaws.

The 17-year-old was described as generous and outstanding

"I don't know who else was there. At the end of the day the tree has come down. I won't criticise anyone working there but not one of the emergency services had a chainsaw," one neighbour said.

"It came down to the locals having chainsaws in order to cut a gap and also the local farmer having lifting gear."

Another neighbour, who also did not want to be named, said: "We cannot believe the tragedy of it all. From what I gather, they had some buildings which they were renovating and they were living in the caravans.

Bethany Freeman was crushed as the 30ft tree fell down in Lydens Lane, Hever

"A lady came up to ask to borrow a chainsaw. We didn't even realise that it was a fatality until long afterwards. We just assumed that the young girl was going to be OK."

Neighbours Helen O'Connell said mother Tess Peirce came round this morning urgently seeking help. "Tess said she could hear Beth speaking. She wanted our help to get her out. All the neighbours came out to try and help.

"A farmer came round with his JCB truck to try and lift the tree off the crushed caravan.

"It was awful. We were trying to console Tess while they tried to get Beth out. I think Tess was trying to talk to Beth, trying to comfort her. There was no power because the electricity had gone off so we couldn't use any power tools. Neighbours were rallying to find a petrol run chainsaw, which eventually someone did.

"But eventually they said Beth had died and there was nothing anyone could do for her."

Bethany and her family were living in the caravans while renovation work was taking place at their home, according to two neighbours.

One of them, who declined to be named, said: "(The family) were planning to join up their two buildings, and they were living in the caravans in order to do it.

"They had been living there for one and a half years, but I don't know how many of them there are. She was in one caravan, and mum was in another caravan.

As news of her death swept the rural community, her driving instructor Neil Chapman turned up at her home unaware she had been killed.

A visibly shocked Chapman told reporters as he arrived to pick her up: "I was teaching Bethany to drive. I'd just arrived not realising all this had happened.

"I can't believe it. What a shock. She was a super kid. She was a great girl, good fun. I can't believe it. There's not much else I can say, really, I can't believe it.

"She was 17, a very lively girl, very sporty. We used to chat about cricket because I was into cricket and she was the only girl I knew into cricket.

"Her family must be so devastated. I can't believe it."

Bethany was a sixth form pupil at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School (TWGGS).

In a statement on its website, the school's headmistress Linda Wybar said:

"The whole of the TWGGS community is profoundly shocked and saddened at the news of Beth Freeman's tragic death. Beth was killed in the storms, early on Monday morning by a falling tree.

"Having joined us in Year 7, she had been with us for over six years and, now in the Upper Sixth, had everything to look forward to.

"Throughout her time at TWGGS, Beth was well-known by staff and girls, universally respected as an individual who always had time for others and gave a huge amount to the school, generously committing her energy and enthusiasm, whatever the need.

"Beth was a dedicated and truly outstanding sportswoman, whose unparalleled role in TWGGS sports will truly be sorely missed.

"She represented the county and local clubs in hockey, cricket and netball. She was instrumental as captain in the TWGGS' 1st XI hockey team's recent success in the Kent county tournament, resulting in the team's progression to the regional finals.

"Beth was an extremely well respected sixth former who assisted the PE department with a wide range of tasks.

"Most noticeably, Beth was very popular with younger girls as she unselfishly gave up so much of her time to help with coaching in hockey, cricket, netball and athletics.

"Through her hard work and enthusiasm for sport she will never be forgotten.

"Her close friends and teachers, as well as the wider school community, will miss her beyond measure, and the school will do all we can to support girls as they struggle to come to terms with Beth's untimely death.

"All our thoughts and love are with Beth's parents and brothers at this saddest of times."

Schoolfriends have taken to Twitter to speak about the teen.

James Brooker wrote: "Shaken is an understatement right now, RIP Beth."

"Never experienced losing someone before, RIP Beth," said another friend, Amy.

"Can't believe it, such an amazing girl... never forget you or the memories we had together. Sleep tight Beth, I love you! RIP xxx" another friend Hayley Smith said on Twitter.

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