By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Complaints had been made to the council about 'dangerous' tree
Sophie Howard, 13, was hit by the falling 1ft-thick branch as she sat on a park bench in Yaxley, Peterborough
A schoolgirl has been killed by a falling branch as she chatted with friends on a park bench.
Sophie Howard, 13, was sitting in the park when the group heard a crack ‘like thunder’.
But although one of her friends was able to warn others to move, Sophie could not get away in time and was crushed by the 15ft branch.
Two off-duty doctors from a nearby GP practice ran to Middletons Road recreation ground in Peterborough, just half a mile from Sophie’s home, to help her, along with paramedics.
The teenager’s parents Martin, 49, and Laura, were called to the scene, according to a witness.
‘The mother fell on the floor in despair. The doctors tried to resuscitate Sophie for at least 20 minutes.
‘I heard she was sat on the bench with some friends. They heard a loud noise, like thunder, and one told the others to move, but Sophie couldn’t move fast enough.’
The teenager was later pronounced dead in hospital.
Sophie, who has a twin brother, Elliott, was a pupil at Sawtry Community College, in Huntingdon.
She was off school on Thursday afternoon, when the accident happened, as the teachers’ strike over pensions meant lessons were cancelled.
Yesterday, her family said in a statement: ‘Sophie was a beautiful girl who had so many friends and we will miss her with all our heart.
Grief: Friends of schoolgirl Sophie Howard visit the park where she was killed by a tree branch
‘She was enthusiastic at school and liked English. She loved music, especially JLS and Jessie J.
‘She was an excellent runner and enjoyed running the Race For Life for charity.
‘She was a typical girlie girl and loved socialising, make-up and fashion. Her friends were very important to her. Sophie’s twin brother is also suffering greatly.’
'We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our friends and family for their support at this difficult time. Sophie has a twin brother who is also suffering greatly.
'Our beloved daughter's death was a tragic incident, which occurred only 24 hours ago, and we do not want it to be connected to any other events.
'We politely ask that our privacy be respected at this time and we will not be issuing anything further.'
A family friend said: ‘We contacted the council about the trees out here being dangerous. They did work on all the trees that looked dangerous six or seven months ago, but they didn’t do much, to be honest.
‘The tree that fell did have something done to it. It makes you wonder how good of a job they did.’
Gathering: Hundreds of children are left in shock as they meet to pay tribute to Sophie
Yaxley Parish Council said the trees in the park were maintained and inspected regularly.
Chairman David Youles said the 50ft tree had been cut back by tree surgeons last autumn.
‘No explanation can be given for what has happened,’ he added.
Her school said in a statement: ‘Sophie approached her time at the college with poise and maturity.
‘She was held in high regard by all who knew her.’
David Kemp, 66, a retired taxi driver who lives on the same estate as Sophie's family, described the twins as 'adorable'.
He said: 'They were a lovely and very close family. They were always very polite.
'I remember when Sophie's parents taught her and her twin brother how to ride their bikes. The twins were adorable.
'She was only in the park because the teachers were on strike and the school was closed.
'She was just sat on the bench with some friends. The doctors surgery is only 100 yards away so they rushed out to try and save her, but they couldn't.'
The girl's friends gathered in the park which is popular with families after the accident and waited for an update about her condition before they were later told that she was dead.
The teenager died after a branch fell from this tree yesterday
Strike day tragedy: Sophie Howard, left, was not at the school that day because of national industrial action
The incident is not being treated as suspicious by police and the incident has been handed over to the coroner.
Sophie's best friend laid a bouquet of pink roses and a heart-shaped photograph of them together.
The note read: 'I will always remember you as my kind and loving best friend and I will forever miss you dearly.
'I know you are at peace and up above with the angels.'
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Police said: 'Officers attended the scene where a girl had been injured by a falling tree branch.
'She was taken to Peterborough City Hospital by ambulance where she later died.
'A cordon has been placed around the site, but it is not being treated as suspicious and the case will now be passed onto the coroner for the girl to be identified.'
Tragedy: Sophie died while out with friends in the park
Friends have been laying flowers at the scene following the tragedy
Fallen branch: 1ft-thick trunk fell on Sophie Howard as she sat on a bench on a day off from school because of the strike