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Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Tragedy of sleeping teenager Bethany Freeman crushed to death in caravan in Hever during St Jude's storm as coroner records verdict of misadventure

03 March 2014
by KentOnline reporter

A teenage girl was killed after a tree fell on the caravan she was sleeping in while her mother's home in Hever was renovated, an inquest has heard today.

Tragic Bethany Freeman, 17, was crushed to death when the 30ft fir tree toppled over during during the St Jude storm.

Beth was living in the caravan in the grounds of her mother's house, in Lydens Lane, while it underwent major building works.

Tragic Bethany Freeman was killed when a tree crushed her caravan

Tragic Bethany Freeman was killed when a tree crushed her caravan

But during freak storms on October 28 last year the tree fell down at 7am.

Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School pupil Beth died from brain injuries caused by the huge weight of the tree, which smashed her caravan into pieces and crushed her chest.

Her mother saw her feet sticking out of the wreckage and tried to "tickle" her in the hope she was still alive, the inquest was told.

North West Kent Coroner Roger Hatch recorded a verdict of misadventure.

Mr Hatch said: "It was well known on the 28th October last year this country was subject to very large winds, named storm St Jude.

"This adversely affected the tree in the neighbouring garden which was brought down and unfortunately and tragically landed upon the caravan which was occupied by Bethany.

"I am advised to record a conclusion of misadventure. I express my sympathies to the family."

The caravan crushed by a tree in Lydens Lane, Hever. Picture Ben Cusack  SWNS.com

The caravan crushed by a tree in Lydens Lane, Hever. Picture: Ben Cusack / SWNS.com

Beth's mum Tess Peirce and brother Guthrie Freeman were staying in the other static caravan on the property, the inquest was told.

The night before she died, Beth had gone with her brother to watch an American football match at Wembley Stadium.

Their mother picked them up from the station and returned home. Beth went straight to bed in her caravan while Guthrie and Tess stayed in their second static home.

They were woken by a huge crash and rushed out to find Beth's caravan was covered by a huge tree, which crushed the sleeping portion covering her bedroom.

Police tape at the spot where Bethany Freeman was killed when a tree crushed a caravan. Picture Ben CusackSWNS.com

Police tape at the spot where Bethany Freeman was killed when a tree crushed a caravan. Picture: Ben Cusack/SWNS.com

DS Sara Niblock told the inquest: "The tree had crushed half of the caravan completely where Bethany was sleeping.

"They could see her foot sticking out from beneath the wreckage. Her mother tickled her foot because she knew she was very ticklish, but Bethany did not react."

Neighbours told how some people rushed forward with chainsaws to try to help free her after her mum raised the alarm, but Beth died at the scene.

Police even asked a local farmer with a tractor to raise the tree off the destroyed caravan, which finally enabled them to remove Beth.

Beth and her family were living in mobile homes while renovation work was taking place at their home nearby, it was said.

Another caravan on the site in Hever where Bethany Freeman was killed last October. Picture Ben CusackSWNS.com

Another caravan on the site in Hever where Bethany Freeman was killed last October. Picture: Ben Cusack/SWNS.com

She was among four people killed around that time as the St Jude storm battered England and Wales with winds reaching 100mph, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Beth's mum Tess attended the inquest, but declined to give a statement.

She said at the time: "We are all absolutely devastated at the loss of my daughter.

"I would like to thank the emergency services for their tremendous efforts in attempting to save her."

Beth was a well-liked upper sixth-form pupil at posh Tunbridge Wells Grammar School who "had everything to look forward to", the school's website said in a sad statement.

The sporty teen represented the county and local clubs in hockey, cricket and netball, and she was said to be a "dedicated and truly outstanding sportswoman".

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