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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 13:46 GMT
Girl's blast death shocks community
By Jessica Dacey
BBC News, Plymouth

Flowers left by well-wishers
Flowers and teddy bears have been left at the scene
Friends and neighbours of nine-year-old Stephanie Hammacott who was crushed to death by a wall in a gas explosion, are trying to come to terms with her death.

The youngster was on her way to school in Southway, Plymouth, when the wall blew over trapping her under rubble.

The area nearby remains cordoned off and residents cannot return home.

Well-wishers are leaving flowers at the scene. At Stephanie's school, pupils are receiving counselling and trying to have a "normal day".

She died in hospital after the explosion, which destroyed the house at about 0800 GMT on Tuesday.

Cathryn Bussell, who was dropping her child off at school, said: "It is a lot to take in at the moment. It's hard. You cannot imagine something like that happening.

"They are talking about it in school, which is good."

One of Stephanie's fellow pupils, Atlantis, said: "She was really good fun. We used to play together quite a lot."

Another friend, Jack, is in the same year and said: "I am feeling sad. She was a good friend to a lot of us in Year 4."

Stephanie Hammacott
Stephanie was crushed when the wall blew out

Southway Primary School head teacher Mark Lees said: "The school is extremely upset by the tragic loss, she was so well loved and respected by us all."

He said Stephanie would be remembered as a "delightful girl, a wonderful girl, loved by everybody in the school, both the children and the adults alike."

He said they were trying to have a "normal day" but pupils were talking about doing something to remember Stephanie and the school would be consulting with her parents on any plans.

Residents living in 12 houses in the surrounding area were not allowed to go back to their homes overnight.

The houses have been boarded up and the residents offered alternative accommodation.

While investigations continue at the scene of the explosion in Bulteel Gardens, well-wishers continued to visit and leave flowers and teddy bears for Stephanie's family.

Among the messages, one said: "Stephanie. Our bright shining star, we'll never forget you."

Another simply states: "RIP Stephanie. God bless you."



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