An eight-year-old girl has been killed and at least 15 others injured after a Land Rover crashed into a primary school in Wimbledon during a last day of term celebration.
Police confirmed that the driver of the vehicle, a woman aged in her 40s, has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.
During a press conference at the scene, Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Superintendent Clair Kelland teared up as she confirmed an eight-year-old girl had died. Her voice broke as she said: “Very sadly one of the children, an eight-year-old girl, died at the scene. Our thoughts are with her family at this incredibly difficult time.”
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London Ambulance Service Chief Paramedic Dr John Martin told reporters 10 victims were taken to hospital, while Ms Kelland confirmed a number are still there being treated.
Dr Martin said: “We dispatched multiple resources including specialist critical care paramedics, London’s air ambulance and 15 ambulances. We declared a major incident. We treated 16 patients on scene. Sadly, as we’ve heard, one eight-year-old girl died.”
Neither commented on reports the event the group was celebrating was a tea party when the car plowed into them.
Ms Kelland described a “very crowded, busy, chaotic scene”. Officers were called at 9.54am to reports a car had crashed into a building at the school, attending the scene alongside London Ambulance Service and London Fire Brigade. A large police cordon has been in place, stretching onto Wimbledon Common where officers have been moving dog walkers and passers-by away from the scene.
People could be seen emotionally embracing each other in front of the cordon. Anxiously holding hands, a number of parents gathered together at the entrance of the cordon earlier on Thursday. They later emerged with their children, with one mother visibly crying as she walked her child to the car.
Speaking to The Independent at the scene, Stephen Hammond, the Conservative MP for Wimbledon, said that the primary school was “well-known” in the area and catered to a number of Wimbledon families. Describing the news as “tragic”, he wrote on social media that his thoughts are with the family and friends of the girl who has died.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said the “devastating” incident in Wimbledon happened when school staff and children “should have been enjoying their last day of term” before the summer holidays.
Local residents appeared baffled and shocked at the news. One elderly gentleman said it was “heartbreaking” and that the school had always been full of “lovely’” pupils, well-respected throughout the community.
Ms Kelland said officers will be looking to identify witnesses and view CCTV in the coming hours and days. She confirmed the crash is not being treated as a terrorist incident, but would not comment further on the investigation. “There’s a person in custody that will have to be interviewed and from that stage onwards we’ll have to review the evidence and make a decision about what actually happened,” she said.
The chairman of the board of governors at the school, John Tucker, said the community is “profoundly affected” by the tragedy. He declined to comment further as he stood at the press conference beside the school’s headmistress Helen Lowe, who was holding hands with head mistress-elect Sharon Maher.
It is understood the Land Rover was being driven by a woman who suffered a medical incident, reported the Evening Standard. Police said the driver of the vehicle stopped at the scene.
Witness Zac Powell said he saw “distraught” parents collecting their children outside the school when he arrived at the scene 20 minutes after the crash. “I saw a lot of distraught parents rushing from the scene on my arrival. Since then I have seen a lot of parents coming and picking up their children with expressions of relief or despair. There was quite a lot of damage I could see. Even from a distance.”
A man, who did not want to be named, said his daughter left the school two years ago and that it is “a really nice, small friendly place”. He said: “It’s unbelievable. It’s terribly sad. I just feel very emotional. It’s a good school. It’s not really an academic boiler house, it’s a really nice, balanced school.”
The Study Prep is a local all-girls primary school, with pupils at Wilberforce House ranging in age from four to eight. Mr Hammond said that where the school is located “generally will be regarded as an area where you wouldn’t see very much speeding”.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister’s “deepest condolences” are with the family of the girl who died, and his thoughts are with all those injured and involved in the “horrific” crash.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Rishi Sunak thanked the emergency services for their swift response, adding: “This will have been a terrifying experience for all of the children, staff and parents.”