Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Headmaster's moving tribute to Antrim girl Ruby Dench who died on school trip to Scottish Highlands

Ruby Dench was in her final year at Whiteabbey Primary School.

A young girl who died on a school trip to the Scottish Highlands brought brightness to every day, her headmaster said.

Ruby Dench passed away after falling ill at an outdoor centre near the village of Kincraig early yesterday morning. It is understood she may have suffered some form of seizure.

Scottish police confirmed they were investigating the "unexplained" death, and said a post-mortem would be carried out.

The 11-year-old was a P7 pupil at Whiteabbey Primary School in Co Antrim. Head teacher Peter Wright said everyone was devastated by the tragedy.

"She really did bring a brightness to every day in the school and clearly at this time our thoughts are with her parents, brother and wider family," he said.

Ruby was among 58 pupils and six adults who travelled to Scotland on Monday.

The group were visiting the Loch Insh Outdoor Centre, but cut short the trip following her death and were returning home yesterday evening. Emergency services were called after Ruby was found unconscious around 2.30am yesterday morning. It is understood she had complained of feeling unwell.

Attempts were made to resuscitate her, but she was later pronounced dead at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

Police said several of the children in the party reported feeling ill, however parents have been told there is no cause for alarm.

"As a precaution, some of the children who had also been feeling unwell were examined by a doctor," a spokeswoman said.

"None of these children had serious symptoms and gave no cause for alarm. The parents of all the school children who were at the outdoor centre at the time have been informed of the circumstances and reassured that there is no cause for wider concern."

In a letter to parents, Mr Wright said the cause of Ruby's death had not yet been established.

Mr Wright stressed no other child or adult was involved.

"It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that one of our P7 pupils, Ruby Dench, died as the result of an, as yet, unknown cause while on our trip to Scotland," he wrote.

"Ruby, who was a well loved, respected and talented member of the school community, will be greatly missed by all of the pupils and staff and our thoughts are with the whole Dench family at this difficult time."

Education Minister John O'Dowd said he was saddened by the tragedy. "It was with deep sadness and regret that I heard about the death of a pupil from Whiteabbey Primary School while on a school trip," he said. "My thoughts are with the child's family and indeed the pupils, teachers and wider school community at what is a profoundly distressing time."

A spokeswoman for the North Eastern Education and Library Board extended her sympathies to Ruby's family. "The board is assisting the school throughout this very sad and difficult time and providing counselling support to the pupils," she said.

"We would like to extend our sincerest sympathies to the parents and family circle."

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