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Classrooms dedicated to Gillian Metcalf of Tenterden who died in Brazil boat tragedy

By Rachael Woods

The family of Gillian Metcalf, 50, who died after the tragedy on the Rio Negro river on September 5, 2013, have made an emotional journey to see the Tongabezi Trust School in Livingstone, Zambia.

Gillian Metcalf, mother of two from Tenterden, in Brazil on the day before she died

Gillian Metcalf, mother of two from Tenterden, in Brazil on the day before she died

Husband Charlie Metcalf of Plummer Lane, Tenterden, took the trip with daughters Natasha, 23, and Alice 22, both former Highworth Grammar School pupils, together with Gillian’s mother Violet Haggerwood, 85.

Their visit was close to the fourth anniversary of Gillian’s death.

“We weren’t ready to go out there before now,” said Mr Metcalf, 60.

“We didn’t want any fuss just to take a look at the school. We sat in a classroom and saw children’s paintings and heard them sing.

Charlie Metcalf, back, left, with his family at the Tongabezi Trust School, where classrooms have been dedicated to Gill

Charlie Metcalf, back, left, with his family at the Tongabezi Trust School, where classrooms have been dedicated to Gill

“I appreciate anything good that can come out of the terrible thing that happened to Gill.”

Mrs Metcalf, a lawyer, died from head injuries after a boat she and her husband Charlie, and their daughters Natasha and Alice were in, crashed with another vessel, while they were on a family holiday booked with Audley Travel, who admitted liability for the death.

The legal case was settled in June but the details are being kept secret. “It is all behind us,” said Mr Metcalf. “I’m happy to be able to confirm that the case has been concluded.”

Two boatmen went on trial in Manaus and were found guilty of the equivalent of manslaughter and eventually imprisoned, leaving the family to pick up the threads of their shattered lives.

The Metcalf family at Victoria Falls on a trip to remember Gill

The Metcalf family at Victoria Falls on a trip to remember Gill

Mr Metcalf, became a counsellor and works at Ashford College, while Natasha is a buyer for online supermarket Ocado and Alice is an MA student at Leeds University.

Two classrooms were funded by money raised from a JustGiving memorial fund set up in Gill’s name and a plaque has been put up in her name.

Mr Metcalf said: “Gill herself did very well at school and the classroom would fit in with her ethos.

“She loved the area and its people and we had great times here as a family.”

A plaque at the Tongabezi Trust School dedicated to Gillian Metcalf

A plaque at the Tongabezi Trust School dedicated to Gillian Metcalf

The family had previously stayed at Tangala House, near Victoria Falls on the banks of the Zambezi River, owned by Ben and Vanessa Parker, of Parker Pens – and they were first introduced to the school through Vanessa Parker.

Mr Metcalf said the trip was a rare chance for the family to get together and share memories of Gill.

He admits: “The evenings we spent together were very emotional and it was a chance to grieve together.

“These things should get easier but they don’t, but now we have this fantastic memory of this short trip. It was really joyous and positive as it’s such a happy place.”

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