THE father of a schoolgirl who died in a swimming accident on a school trip to France said the family are “waiting to get her back home to be remembered forever”.
Twelve-year-old Jessica Lawson was one of 24 students from Wolfreton School in Hull visiting an activity resort near Meymac in the Massif Central region of the country.
Writing on Facebook, Antony Lawson said: “This only happens to other people! Yesterday we became those ‘other people’, we lost our beautiful loving and kind daughter Jessica in tragic circumstances in France. We are here for her and are waiting to get her back home to be remembered forever.”
He said she was “Mum’s baby girl” and “Dad’s birthday girl”, adding: “We all love you and miss you. All our love forever and ever. You will always be with us, Mum and Dad and Polly and Hannah.”
The family paid tribute to Jessica as “the most beautiful and outgoing girl”, as French authorities launched an investigation into the circumstances of the death.
Jessica was taken to hospital in Limoges after an incident at the centre on Tuesday – when a pontoon the children had been jumping from on a lake reportedly overturned – but she died on Wednesday morning.
Her sister Polly, who has travelled with other members of her family to the resort, wrote on Facebook: “Just thought I should let everyone who knows me and my family that the girl in this accident was unfortunately my sister Jess.
“We are in France doing everything we can to get her back into the country. All of your thoughts are appreciated at this time.
“Remember who she was, not who she could have been; it is important we respect and cherish the memories we had with her. Thanks everyone again.”
Hannah Davison, another sister, said: “We are all heartbroken and devastated. Jess was the most beautiful and outgoing girl and I am proud to be her sister.
“I will live my life to the full just like she would have done. I love you angel. Forever.”
Local media France Bleu reported Jessica had spent several days at the centre and was among a group playing in a lake and jumping from a pontoon. The pontoon then overturned and some of the children were trapped underneath. A lifeguard dived down twice before finding Jessica, it was reported.
Those on the trip, including three members of staff, had been due to return to the UK yesterday.
Dave McCready, headteacher at Wolfreton School, said Jessica’s death was a “terrible tragedy” and a “dreadful shock to the whole school community”. Senior members of staff have travelled to the area to help the school party. Pupils have been interviewed by French authorities investigating the incident and counsellors will be available to help those affected.
Mr McCready said: “As a parent myself I can only begin to imagine the pain felt by her parents and family at her death at such a young age.
“As you would expect, the news of this terrible tragedy has come as a dreadful shock to our whole school community and we will continue to liaise with the appropriate bodies to provide ongoing support to the family and also to other students and staff who will be deeply affected by this tragic news.”