A baby girl was amongst 16 people injured in a horrific crash that saw a Land Rover plough into an end of term school party in Wimbledon, killing an eight-year-old girl and leaving ten others in hospital.
Witnesses told how they could hear girls as young as four ‘screaming in complete horror’ seconds after tragedy struck at the £16,000-a-year The Study Prep school in Wimbledon, with several people left in a critical condition in hospital.
The black and gold two-tonne 4×4 crashed through the school’s wooden fence shortly before 10am and careered across the lawn, sending terrified students and staff fleeing as best they could.
Locals heard piercing screams as the £70,000 vehicle hit multiple people and reportedly trapped at least one child underneath it. Others saw a baby crying in the back of an ambulance after being caught up in the chaos, the Times reports.
As parents held bedside vigils for those injured overnight, police confirmed the driver, a woman in her 40s, had been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and remained in custody. Her vehicle has since been removed from the site for tests.
A major incident has been declared following the horror collision in Wimbledon on Thursday morning
Pictures from the scene show how tables and chairs were crushed by the 4×4 before it collided into the exterior wall of the main hall of The Study Prep school in Wimbledon this morning
School governor John Tucker (left), outgoing headteacher Helen Lowe (centre) and incoming headteacher Sharon Maher (right) at a press conference on Thursday
Ten people, including several children, were taken to hospital for treatment and emergency services declared a major incident at the all-girls school.
The eight-year-old girl, who has not been named, died at the scene.
Anguished parents raced to the school to find out news and be reunited with their children, and families continued a night vigil as they desperately hoped for good news about their injured loved ones.
Police quickly ruled out terrorism in the crash as the woman is believed to have suffered a ‘medical incident’ behind the wheel. She has since been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.
Witnesses described seeing children being carried away from the £16,000-a-year school, with one injured girl looking ‘absolutely shell-shocked’ and ‘unable to speak’.
Meanwhile the school’s headteacher Helen Lowe was pictured holding hands with head mistress-elect Sharon Maher. Both appeared heavily emotional as they joined the emergency services at a press conference yesterday afternoon.
One man, who drove past the school just seconds after the crash, told the Times what he saw was ‘very shocking’.
The 53-year-old described the scene: ‘The girls were screaming – it was harrowing. Everyone was rushing, saying a car had just driven into the grounds.’
Returning past the school 20 minutes later, he saw the scale of the emergency response.
He added: ‘There was one little baby that was in the ambulance who was crying uncontrollably.’
Witnesses told MailOnline families were sitting on the grass just before 10am when the ‘out of control’ vehicle suddenly veered from Camp Road onto the lawn, forcing them to ‘jump out of the way’ – with one saying the crash sounded ‘like a bomb going off’.
Worried parents rushed to the school and one couple were seen escorting their daughter, who was wearing a blue school uniform dress, to their car.
The little girl was walking along the road, supported by both parents, wearing just her socks with no shoes – with her father also missing a shoe.
Incoming headteacher at the school Sharon Maher walks away from the crash scene on Thursday evening, head in her hands
Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond said: ‘Since being declared by the local police a major incident, you’ve seen that we’ve had fire, air ambulance, ambulance and police on the scene’
Police officers investigate after the car crashed into a school building in Wimbledon
Police officers set up cordon line after the incident in South West London on Thursday
Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Superintendent Clair Kelland appeared emotional as she spoke to the media yesterday
Tables and chairs were crushed by the 4×4 before it hit the exterior wall of the main hall – as staff, pupils and parents were enjoying the end of the school year.
Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Superintendent Clair Kelland teared up as her voice broke in a press conference while she confirmed that a girl aged eight had died, adding: ‘Our thoughts are with her family at this incredibly difficult time.’
One local resident told the Daily Mail: ‘It is an absolute travesty. The poor family, on the last day of school. They could well have been getting ready for a summer holiday and then this happens. It is heartbreaking.
‘You have to ask why do people drive these massive cars? It is so sad.’
Last night the car, covered in a green tarpaulin, was loaded on a police flat-bed lorry and driven away past broken and bent metal railings.
The Land Rover appeared to have driven towards the school from the direction of the nearby Royal Wimbledon Golf Club.
The school, which teaches girls aged four to 11, sits on a quiet 20mph road at the edge of Wimbledon Common, just a mile away from the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, where the world-renowned Wimbledon tennis tournament is taking place.
Houses on the road, in an affluent area of the capital, regularly sell for more than £2million; larger properties can sell for up to £6million.
Police, the fire brigade, an air ambulance and 15 other ambulances were sent to the school after the first 999 call was received at 9.54am.
Chief Paramedic Dr John Martin from the London Ambulance Service told reporters: ‘At 9.54 we received a 999 call to a collision on Camp Road in Wimbledon.
Local residents said they feared there had been a terror attack as emergency vehicles converged on the scene (a view of the Land Rover that crashed into the school)
The Land Rover that crashed into the school party is towed away by police
The driver is believed to have been a woman in her 40s who suffered a ‘medical incident’
Remnants of the celebration including tables with cloths and colourful mats could be seen in the aftermath of the horror crash
The 4×4 was taken away from the school on Thursday evening, covered by a green tarpaulin
Emergency services are seen at the scene of the horror crash in Wimbledon
An air ambulance is seen arriving near Camp Road in Wimbledon
Police officers cordon off Camp Road in Wimbledon after a Land Rover collided with a school building on Thursday
‘We dispatched multiple resources including specialist critical care paramedics, London’s air ambulance and 15 ambulances. We declared a major incident. We treated 16 patients on scene. Sadly, as we’ve heard, one eight-year-old girl died.’
Wimbledon’s Tory MP Stephen Hammond said he believed several people had been critically injured, adding: ‘This is an extraordinary tragedy and the local community will feel it very hardly.
‘This is the local school and most of the children will have come from Wimbledon. Many years ago, my own daughter went there so I know what a great school it is. The whole of Wimbledon is in shock.’
Wimbledon resident Julie Atwood said: ‘My daughter used to go to this school. It’s a girls’ school. Wimbledon is like a little village. For this to happen in Wimbledon is unheard of. It’s terrible.’
Flowers were placed near the school by New Malden residents Sophia Graham, 27, and Tayla Landsberg, 22, on Thursday who said: ‘When we found out one of the kids had died it was awful.
‘When the police made their announcement it was so sad to see even them get emotional. It’s made a big impact on everyone.
‘Kids walk in the Common freely without thinking about it.’
Ms Landsberg said: ‘It’s usually very peaceful, very bubbly with lots of fun activities going on.’
A local mother added: ‘I think everyone is in complete shock and desperately trying to work out what happened. The school is such a part of this community. Everybody is just very, very upset and thinking about the children and parents who are still in hospital as well as the eight-year-old.’
One local resident told MailOnline that he was told a woman had suffered a seizure before crashing. It is believed she was leaving the nearby Royal Wimbledon Golf Club when the accident took place.
During a press conference, John Tucker said: ‘As you’ll perhaps appreciate, the school community is profoundly affected by this tragedy’.
Mr Tucker declined to comment further as he stood beside the school’s head mistress Helen Lowe, who was holding hands with head mistress-elect Sharon Maher.
One local, Zac Powell, said horrified parents had begun arriving at the school within 15 minutes of the crash, desperate to see if their children were safe.
He said: ‘I arrived at around 10.15am. I saw a lot of distraught parents rushing from the scene on my arrival.
‘Since then I have seen a lot of parents coming and picking up their children with expressions of relief or despair.’
Another local resident told the Mail: ‘It is terrible. The children were on the grass with their teachers enjoying a tea party for the end of the school year.’
The school’s chairman of governors, John Tucker, said the school had been ‘profoundly affected by this tragedy’.
In a statement, the school said it was ‘profoundly shocked by the tragic accident’.
It said: ‘Our thoughts are with the bereaved family and with the families of those injured at this terrible time.
‘It is still far too soon to fully understand what happened, but we are well aware of the significant impact this dreadful event will have on our pupils and their families.
‘Their welfare remains our top priority and we will be doing everything we can to support them, especially those who suffered injuries.’
St George’s NHS Trust in Tooting, which is about four miles away from the school, told BBC News that staff had received ‘a number of patients’ in connection with the incident, who were being ‘cared for by our specialist clinical teams’.
Downing Street said that the Prime Minister’s thoughts were with the family of the girl who died in the ‘terrifying’ incident.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Rishi Sunak wanted to thank the emergency services for their swift response. He said: ‘The Prime Minister’s deepest condolences are with the family of the girl who has tragically lost her life.
‘His thoughts are with all those injured and involved in the horrific collision in Wimbledon this morning. This will have been a terrifying experience for all of the children, staff and parents.’
Multiple ambulances are seen on Camp Road in Wimbledon on Thursday morning
Dozens of officers and emergency workers remain at the scene near Wimbledon Common
A fire truck and an ambulance are seen near the scene of a ‘serious collision’ in Wimbledon
Police, firefighters and tactical units were called to the scene of a ‘serious collision’ at The Study Prep school on Camp Road at just before 10am.
Sky News’ Jacquie Beltrao, who is at the scene, said: ‘This is a very small road just off Wimbledon common. Its really narrow and very quiet. I can see about eight ambulances’
A guest at a nearby hotel said she spoke to an eye witness, telling the Evening Standard : ‘He said a car just ploughed into the school and it didn’t look good. It’s so sad’
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan added: ‘The staff and children of the Study Preparatory School should have been enjoying their last day of term and my thoughts remain with them and the wider community at this devastating time.’
Conservative MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond said: ‘It was very clear, very quickly, that it was a major incident and the local police declared it just that.
‘I think you will have seen by the sheer scale of the response from the paramedics, air ambulance, fire brigade and the police what an important and serious incident this is.
‘And what a sad incident – it is tragically on the last day of term, for this young girl to have lost her life.
‘This is a well-liked, well-respected, well-known school.
‘Most of the children who go here will be Wimbledon families, and this will cause shock across the whole of the local community.’
The London Air Ambulance earlier told the BBC that ‘a fair amount of resources’ were called to the area, including ‘response officers’ and a ‘hazardous area response unit’.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: ‘I’m heartbroken at the news that an eight-year-old girl has so tragically died following the incident.
‘My thoughts are with her loved ones, the school and wider community at this extremely difficult time, and on behalf of all Londoners I want to extend my deepest condolences to them. My heart goes out to everyone affected.’