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Tuesday, 4 January, 2000, 17:57 GMT
Ski girl 'not wearing helmet'

Hayle students Rachel's fellow pupils leave the resort for San Francisco

A 15-year-old British schoolgirl who apparently died of head injuries in a skiing accident in the United States was not wearing a helmet, police have revealed.

Police in Stateline, Nevada, said Rachel Williams, from Hayle, Cornwall, died after hitting a tree at the Heavenly Valley ski resort on the California border on New Year's Day.

Rachel Williams Rachel: 'an extremely popular pupil'
Her mother, Helen, and stepfather, James Fogwell, have flown to the US and are now at the resort.

US authorities say Rachel was one of a party of 30 pupils and seven adults from Hayle Community College near Penzance.

The Douglas County sheriff's office said she had been skiing on a public piste on the Nevada side of the resort, 80 kilometres south west of Reno.

Heavenly is the same resort where the entertainer-turned US congressman Sonny Bono died almost exactly two years ago when he also collided with a tree.

Sergeant Lance Modispacher said witnesses reported Rachel skiing "very fast and out of control".

A teacher, named by Nevada officials as Phil Allen, tried in vain to revive Rachel.

The school party was skiing in Heavenly Valley resort
He alerted the Heavenly Valley Ski Patrol, who transported the pupil to the bottom of the 10,000ft mountain in a caged sled.

The Tahoe Douglas Fire Department officials attempted to save her but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her grandfather, George Williams, said his son was caring for their other teenaged daughter.

"It is a tragic time for both families", he said.

Staff at the school group's hotel said pupils and staff wept following the tragedy.

"The group were all deeply, deeply shocked and upset. They all sat in an office and cried for most of the day," said Jennifer Homer, duty manager at the Red Carpet Inn at South Lake Tahoe.

The school party is heading for San Francisco before returning to the UK.

The headteacher of Hayle Community College, Alec Oliver, said: "We are all devastated by this tragic news. Rachel was a lovely girl with a lively, outgoing personality, committed and hard working.

"She was extremely popular with pupils and staff. Our thoughts are at present with her family and friends."

Cornwall County Council's secretary for education, Jonathan Harris, said help and counselling would be provided to the Hayle group on their return to Cornwall later this week.

The Douglas County sheriff's office said the resort had one or two fatalities every year.

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06 Jan 98 |  World
Sonny Bono - a life in the fast lane

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