RESIDENTS near a Stowmarket school have witnessed an outpouring of grief this week – floral tributes and glowing lanterns – following the sudden death of a pupil in class.
The Stowmarket High School community was said to be in ‘a serious state of shock’ after popular Year 11 student Lily Webster died during a PE lesson at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre, next to the school in Gainsborough Road, on Monday.
Headteacher Keith Penn said 15-year-old Lily had just finished her routine on the trampoline and, having got down, instantly said she felt unwell and lay herself on the floor.
He said: “At that point it was very clear that she was rapidly getting worse and the emergency services were rung immediately.
“I was teaching in the school and ran down – I was there within minutes and the emergency services were there before me.
“They treated her for well over an hour but she did not respond.”
Ambulance service spokesman Gary Sanderson said a response doctor, an ambulance, two rapid response cars and the East Anglian Air Ambulance attended the leisure centre after being alerted at 2.30pm.
He added: “On arrival, the girl was found in a critical condition. Ambulance crews, the doctor and the critical care team from the air ambulance worked extensively to treat and stabilise the girl but following everyone’s best efforts, she was pronounced dead at the scene.”
From 6am on Tuesday, flowers began building up outside the school’s entrance to the leisure centre, with many choosing lilies as a fitting tribute to the teen, described by Mr Penn as ‘popular, active, bright and with a very wide circle of friends’.
Separate assemblies were held with each of the school’s year groups – it was deemed inappropriate to hold a whole-school assembly in the sports hall where the tragedy occurred – and after a few minutes silence in each for Lily and her family, applause was given.
“I think applause is more appropriate than silence to respect a lively young person’s life,” said Mr Penn, adding that the whole school community was ‘shocked and deeply saddened’ by Lily’s ‘tragic and sudden death’.
Pupils were able to use the school’s library for quiet reflection and counsellors were, and will continue to be, available for those affected.
From 5.30pm on Tuesday a candlelit vigil took place outside the school, with more than 400 people gathering to light lanterns and release them into the night sky.
“It really touched a chord, it was very moving,” said Mr Penn, impressed at the impromptu tribute organised by his students.
“It was very dark and you couldn’t see much but once you could see the lanterns in the sky, you saw just how many people were thinking of her,” he said.
Motorists travelling on the A14 reported seeing the lantern spectacle, which Lily’s mum and older brother were also part of.
In a tribute, with Lily’s dad and younger brother, they said: “Lily was a wonderful daughter and much-loved sister, niece, granddaughter and friend to many.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness and the response of our local community. Her sudden loss is a terrible pain for us all to bear.
“We would be very grateful if the general public would allow us some time to grieve privately.”
Philipa Das, Lily’s trampoline coach of six years, dedicated a class Lily was due to attend yesterday to the ‘amazing trampolinist’ she had ‘grown attached to’ over the years.
She said: “She was an amazing young lady, always smiling and laughing – just a beautiful person.
“It’s so unfair, it shouldn’t happen to a 15-year-old and you don’t expect it to happen to someone like her, fit and apparently healthy, it’s just so tragic.”
Yesterday a RIP Lily Webster page on Facebook had received almost 3,000 likes, with hundreds of moving messages posted.