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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 18:25 GMT
Teenage skier hurt in 'freak accident'
The accident happened at a resort in Austria
A 17-year-old British student has been seriously injured during a half-term school skiing trip in Austria.

Nicola Smales was injured on the last descent of the holiday at the resort of Treffen, near Villach.

She was part of a group of 37 students and four staff from St Joseph's RC Comprehensive School in Hebburn, South Tyneside, who had made the trip abroad.

South Tyneside Council's education department officials said Nicola's parents immediately flew to Austria after the accident, which happened on Friday.

This appears to have been a terrible freak accident

Barbara Hughes, South Tyneside council

Barbara Hughes, South Tyneside's director for lifelong learning and leisure said on Tuesday: "We are doing everything possible to help the family during this distressing time.

"I understand that Nicola is an accomplished skier who was skiing in a small group with a nationally-qualified instructor.

"This appears to have been a terrible freak accident."

Nicola's parents are at their daughter's hospital bedside in Klagenfurt, where her condition has been described as very serious.

Staff and pupils at the school have been holding special assemblies and a mass.

Headteacher Joe Campbell said: "Staff and pupils are traumatised by news of the accident.

"All Nicola's friends in the lower sixth are offering prayers for Nicola and her family and will be writing to them in Austria.

"Everyone here at St Joseph's is praying for Nicola, her family and her friends and offering them all our support and help."

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See also:

19 Feb 02 | England
Teenager dies in ski accident
26 Jul 01 | Education
Teachers advised to boycott trips
25 Jul 01 | Education
School failed to protect pupil
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