Weather: Mother of crushed girl ‘devastated’

Bethany Freeman died after a tree fell on her caravan. Picture: PA
Bethany Freeman died after a tree fell on her caravan. Picture: PA
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The mother of a school pupil killed when a huge tree toppled on to her caravan as she slept has spoken of her sense of loss.

Tess Pierce said her family was “absolutely devastated” at the death of 17-year-old Bethany Freeman. The talented sportswoman, nicknamed Gia, was crushed when a 30ft tree fell down amid high winds in Lydens Lane in Hever, near Edenbridge, Kent.

It came as thousands of home owners were told to face another night without power and engineers were drafted in to help reconnect the worst-affected areas.

In a statement issued through Kent Police, Ms Pierce said: “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.”

Bethany was a “universally respected” sixth-form pupil at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School who “had everything to look forward to”, the school’s website said. There were tragic scenes as her driving instructor arrived at her home to pick her up without knowing she had died. She was among four people killed as hurricane-force winds battered England and Wales, leaving a trail of destruction.

“Loving husband” and father-of-three Donal Drohan, 51, originally from Waterford in Ireland, died when his car was hit by a tree near a bridge over the River Colne in Watford, Hertfordshire.

Mr Drohan, from Harrow, west London, was killed when his car was struck by a falling tree in Lower High Street.

In Hounslow, west London, three houses were destroyed and two others were damaged by an explosion, thought to have been caused by a ruptured gas main.

Suhail Akhtar, 46, and girlfriend Dorota Kolasinska, 34, were found dead under rubble. Ms Kolsinska, who had been working for Hackney Council for nine months, was described as “extremely popular and hard-working”.

Kim Wright, corporate director of health and community services at the council in east London, said: “This is a truly tragic incident and our thoughts and sympathies are with Dorota’s family, friends and colleagues.”

Those who knew Mr Akhtar, who had worked as an IT contractor for services firm Atos, were “devastated” by the news.

Last night, residents and business owners faced the prospect of a second night in the dark after vast swathes of Britain suffered power outages. Latest figures from UK Power Networks show about 41,000 properties in the east and 9,200 in the south-east of England were without power.

Engineers hope to have 98 per cent of power supplies that were affected restored by today and the final few by the end of the week. Director of customer services Matt Rudling said: “We are aiming to have 98 per cent of power supplies which were affected yesterday restored by tomorrow and the final few by the end of the week.

“I would like to thank people who are still without power for their patience, and stress that we are working to restore all supplies as quickly and as safely possible.

“A lot of hard of work is going on round the clock and we are making good progress.”

While many train services have been reinstated following Monday’s severely disrupted operations, rail users were still asked to check travel times as delays were reported.

Insurers are counting the cost of the storm, but say it is too early to tell whether it will compare with the multibillion-pound damages caused by previous severe weather events.