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Tributes to Jessica Lawson, after France school trip swimming tragedy

Family and friends have paid tribute to 12-year-old Jessica Lawson, who died in a swimming accident on a school trip to France, describing her as "the most beautiful and outgoing girl".

The pupil at the Wolfreton School in Hull was taken to hospital in Limoges after an incident at an activity centre yesterday afternoon but died this morning.

Her parents and a sister have travelled to the activity centre resort near Meymac in the Massif Central region of central France.

Jessica's sister Polly, who is in France, wrote on Facebook: " Just thought I should let everyone who knows me and my family that the girl in this accident was unfortunately my sister Jess.

"We are in France doing everything we can to get her back into the country. All of your thoughts are appreciated at this time.

"Remember who she was not who she could have been, it is important we respect and cherish the memories we had with her. Thanks everyone again."

Hannah Davison, another sister, added: "We are all heartbroken and devastated. Jess was the most beautiful and outgoing girl and I am proud to be her sister.

"I will live my life to the full just like she would have done. I love you angel. Forever."

Jessica was among 24 students and three staff who were on a water sports trip to the adventure centre.

Local media France Bleu reported she had spent several days at the centre and was among a group playing in a lake and jumping from a pontoon.

The pontoon then overturned and some of the children were trapped underneath. A lifeguard dived down twice before finding Jessica, it was reported.

Dave McCready, her head teacher at Wolfreton School, said Jessica's death was a "terrible tragedy" and a "dreadful shock to the whole school community".

Senior members of staff have travelled to the area to help the school party. Pupils have been interviewed by French authorities investigating the incident and are tonight being brought home. Counsellors will also be available to help those affected.

Mr McCready said: "As a parent myself I can only begin to imagine the pain felt by her parents and family at her death at such a young age.

"As you would expect the news of this terrible tragedy has come as a dreadful shock to our whole school community and we will continue to liaise with the appropriate bodies to provide ongoing support to the family and also to other students and staff who will be deeply affected by this tragic news."

He added: "Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to the family at this very difficult time."

The incident happened at the Club Correze adventure centre in Meymac, on a six-day trip run by the Activ4 tour operator. The pupils had left the UK on Sunday for the holiday, which included chances to kayak, sail, mountain bike and go climbing, and were due to return home tomorrow.

One of the conditions for going on the trip was that pupils had to be able to swim 50 metres unaided, although a letter to parents said they did "not have to be technically sound or regular swimmers".

Activ4 said that it understood the incident occurred while the group was swimming after activities scheduled by Club Correze staff had finished.

Steve Scott, managing director of Activ4, who is in Meymac, said: "We can confirm that a student on one of our trips to the south of France passed away this morning following a swimming incident yesterday afternoon.

"At this stage the exact circumstances surrounding the incident remain unclear.

"The owners of the activity centre and senior management from Activ4 are working closely with the local authority and the school to provide all necessary support and assistance."

The company said the party is being brought home this evening, adding: " We are greatly saddened by the event and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the girl's family at this difficult time."

Today pupils at Wolfreton left bunches of flowers at the school's gates in memory of Jessica.

Harry Williams, the partner of Jessica's sister Polly, paid tribute to her on Facebook, saying: " Remember Jess for all the beauty she had in her, a caring intelligent girl who had endless understanding and maturity.

"It is a hard time for everybody involved and words are difficult. Jessica was an amazing friend and a sister to me, I love her dearly as I do the rest of the family."

Jessica's death comes just 10 days after a teenager died during a swimming trip while on a school rugby tour to Canada.

Abdul Jamal Ottun, 17, who went to Wallington County Grammar School in the London borough of Sutton, died at Shawnigan Lake School in British Columbia on July 12.


From Belfast Telegraph