Scotland's Weather: Girl, 14, crushed by ice fall as she clears path

A TEENAGE girl has suffered serious spinal injuries after being crushed when ice and snow fell from the roof of her home. Samantha Kinghorn had been clearing a path outside the cottage in the Scottish Borders when she was engulfed.

• Samantha Kinghorn is taken to the air ambulance for transfer to Glasgow Picture: Rob Fairburn

The 14-year-old was taken to Borders General Hospital from her home near Gordon, Berwickshire, then airlifted 70 miles to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow yesterday, where doctors at the hospital's specialist spinal unit performed emergency surgery.

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Samantha had been off school when the accident happened because of the wintry conditions which have caused havoc in many parts of Scotland and the UK. A hospital spokeswoman last night described Samantha's condition as "serious but stable".

It also emerged yesterday that two pensioners had been found dead in their gardens in separate incidents in Cumbria.

Police asked householders to watch out for their neighbours after the bodies of 84-year-old William Wilson and Lillian Jenkinson, 80, were discovered. While the heavy snows which hit much of Scotland show signs of abating over the weekend, forecasters warned that extreme cold would continue to cause serious difficulties.

Temperatures on Royal Deeside plunged to -20C on Thursday night, while the mercury fell to -13C in Edinburgh and -10C in Glasgow.

Underlining the serious nature of the conditions presented by one of the most severe early cold snaps since the Second World War, Scottish transport secretary Stewart Stevenson cancelled plans to travel to the United Nations climate change conference in Cancun next week as Arctic weather continued to cause major problems on the country's road and rail routes.

Motoring groups warned drivers of the dangers of black ice on Scotland's roads while rail services were hard-hit as freezing temperatures caused the cancellation of all services north of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Mr Stevenson said: "Scotland is in the grip of the worst snow and ice conditions at this time of year since the 1960s and this is having serious knock-on effects across the country.

"These conditions demand urgent action."

At the Southern General Hospital, medics treating Samantha Kinghorn were today waiting to assess whether emergency surgery to prevent lasting spinal damage had been successful.

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The teenager had endured a torrid journey from her home on a farm near Gordon after her accident on Thursday afternoon.

She was first taken by ambulance to Borders General Hospital near Melrose, Roxburghshire, where she spent the night.

Samantha's injuries were deemed so serious that the decision was taken to transfer her to Glasgow.

Police officers were on standby to assist paramedics but it was decided it was too dangerous to take her by road because many in the region are still affected by snow and ice and the girl had to remain motionless.

Instead the air ambulance was called in and she was flown from the Borders to Glasgow.

One shopkeeper in Gordon, who asked not to be named, said the whole village had been talking about the accident all day.

"It's an awful thing to happen," she said. A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: "We can confirm that a teenager suffered spinal injuries after being hit by falling ice and snow on Thursday. She was transferred by air ambulance to hospital in Glasgow."

In Cumbria a neighbour found Lillian Jenkinson, 80, outside her home in Workington on Wednesday morning. Police believe she may have fallen before she died, possibly on Tuesday night.

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Ms Jenkinson's neighbour June Mattinson and her daughter Ann called at her house after another friend couldn't get an answer when she telephoned, and found her in the back yard.

Mary Beck, 80, who lives opposite, became concerned when the phone was unanswered as Lillian rarely left her house.

Ms Mattinson, who had known her for 40 years, described her friend as frail and said she walked using a stick. For many years, Ms Mattinson has checked on her friend twice a day.

On Tuesday, William Wilson, 84, was found dead in his garden in Kirkby Stephen. The ambulance service said his death was cardiac-related.

Neighbour Dawn Harrison found Mr Wilson lying dead in his garden. Mrs Harrison had been asked to call at the house by Mr Wilson's daughter-in-law.

"She phoned me as he was not answering his telephone," said Mrs Harrison.

"I went around to check and saw him lying half-buried in the snow in the back yard. I went back to get my dad as I did not want to go any further on my own."

Neighbours said Mr Wilson was known as Willy. He was described as a very nice, quiet man who didn't go out much. "He liked to keep himself to himself, but he was friendly," said a resident.

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A spokesman for North West Ambulance Service said Mr Wilson was declared dead at the scene.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK, said: "Tragic incidents like this are a reminder of how important it is to take extra care in these icy and cold conditions. If older people fall they are more susceptible to injury and can often struggle to get back on their feet."

In a separate incident, scores of people walked past a pensioner who had collapsed in a street in Salisbury without helping him.

Brian Courtney, 77, lay unconscious for almost five hours during which time his body temperature fell to just 26C.

NHS Borders and Edinburgh city council have both warned of the increased risk of accidents due to the freezing temperatures which have left pavements and footpaths ice-bound.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh city council said property owners needed to take responsibility for snow which could fall from their property.

"Overhanging snow and ice, particularly on cast iron roans, poses a real safety risk both for buildings themselves and for pedestrians walking underneath," she said.

"Our property conservation experts have already responded to a number of extreme emergency cases in the past 24 hours where gutters have come down due to the weight of snow they're carrying.

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"Property owners have a legal responsibility to make their properties safe."

Meanwhile, a train driver was hailed a hero after he saved a disorientated swan from certain death on the snow-hit tracks.

ScotRail driver Bob McFarlane, 50, rescued the disorientated cygnet after it crash landed as his Fife circle train approached Rosyth Station on its way to Edinburgh.

After stopping his train and bringing the bird on board his first class carriage, he said: "The first class section of the train was empty so I blocked it off and that's where the swan stayed until we arrived at Waverley station.

"It was just after five o'clock when we got there so the concourse was absolutely packed.

"When they spotted us, passengers couldn't help smiling and there were a few shouts of 'there's Rod Hull and Emu'.

"I was just happy to help and I'm delighted to hear the swan is going to be okay."

• Additional reporting, John Ross and Frank Urquhart