Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Teenage girl dies in sledge crash

Francesca Anobile
The teenager's family said she was set for an "outstanding academic career"

A teenage girl has died after suffering serious head injuries when a makeshift sledge crashed in South Yorkshire.

Francesca Anobile, 16, of Mosborough, Sheffield, was among five girls hurt in the incident at Rother Valley Country Park, near Killamarsh, on Tuesday.

She was airlifted to hospital in Sheffield, where she later died.

Her friend Nikki Burns, also 16 and from Sheffield, was seriously injured. Another 17-year-old girl is being treated for head and leg injuries.

The two other girls, both aged 16, were treated for minor injuries and later discharged from hospital.

South Yorkshire Police described the accident as "a tragic sledging incident".

In a statement, Francesca's family said she was a "beautiful, witty, intelligent and popular young woman with everything to live for".

They said: "She was set for an outstanding academic career and had an unbelievable work ethic.

"She was loving and supportive to everyone she came in contact with, whether friends or family, and was a friend to all. The whole family are extremely proud of her."

Laura Simpson, who saw the accident, said Francesca was her best friend and was "amazing".

We looked on and just hoped that they were going to get up but no one did
Jules McKay, eyewitness

She said: "I was the only one who didn't get on. I had to watch it all. I watched them come down. I just decided not to get on. I don't even know why.

"We were more or less inseparable, never a day would go by without us speaking or anything.

"I've just lost a big part of my life."

Sue Simmons, head teacher at Westfield Sports College where Francesca had attended, said the teenager had achieved 15 GCSEs at grade A or A* and had been studying for her A-levels at Sheffield College.

Barbed wire

Mrs Simmons said: "We are deeply upset by Francesca's death.

"Francesca was a gifted and talented student who was an absolute joy to teach.

"What has happened is absolutely heartbreaking."

She said the college had postponed its GCSE presentation evening, due to be held next week, as a mark of respect for all the girls involved in the crash.

The girls had been using an improvised metal sledge, made from an upturned Land Rover roof, which went through a barbed wire fence.

The scene of the accident
Police and park staff have closed off the hill to sledging

It then struck a separate section of fence in a field being used for cattle grazing.

Jules McKay, who saw the accident, said: "There were a lot of people on the slope. Everyone was sledging as normal and having a good time.

"All of a sudden, at a tremendous speed, came this roof with the girls on it. It was so fast they couldn't jump from it.

"We looked on and just hoped that they were going to get up but no one did."

Police are liaising with park rangers and the Health and Safety Executive in their investigation into the accident.

The South Yorkshire force issued a warning about the dangers of playing on snow and ice.

A spokesman said: "Police would like to highlight the importance of personal safety during this period of adverse weather and advise everyone to take extra care when playing out in the snow and ice."

Rotherham Council said it had taken steps to prevent people sledging on that particular slope.

Print Sponsor

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