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Wimbledon vicar offers church for community support after car crashes into school

07 July 2023

Two girls, both aged eight, died, and several children and adults were injured

Alamy

A Land Rover Defender is seen inside the grounds of the Study Preparatory School in Camp Road, Wimbledon, in south London, on Thursday

A Land Rover Defender is seen inside the grounds of the Study Preparatory School in Camp Road, Wimbledon, in south London, on Thursday

A CHURCH has opened its doors to support a London community after a girl, aged eight, died, and several children and adults were injured, when a car crashed into a school’s end-of-term party yesterday.

On Thursday, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that Selena Lau had died as a result of her injuries. On Sunday, the Metropolitan Police announced that a second girl, Nuria Sajjad, also aged eight, had also died.

The Vicar of Christ Church, West Wimbledon, the Revd Lotwina Farodoye, said: “We are all completely shocked and saddened by this terrible incident — and our hearts and prayers go out to all of the families affected, and to the school community. We will be thinking over the coming days about how we can best support our community through this tragedy.”

The incident at The Study Prep, a school for girls aged four to 11, happened as the pupils and families celebrated before their summer holidays. A large 4x4 vehicle ploughed through a fence into the playground, scattering children and parents as they picnicked on the grass, before smashing into a school building.

The driver, a woman in her forties, was later detained by police on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. A Metropolitan Police official said that terrorist action had been ruled out. One theory is that the driver suffered a medical incident.

A spokesperson for the London Ambulance Service said that it dispatched 15 ambulances to the scene. Sixteen patients were treated at the scene, and ten were taken to St George’s Hospital, Tooting, near by. Some are believed to have serious injuries.

Ms Farodoye immediately opened her church to offer a quiet space, the opportunity to light a candle, pray, or speak with someone from the Raynes Park Bereavement Service. It will remain open until 4 p.m. today.

The Bishop of Kingston, Dr Martin Gainsborough, in whose area the school is situated, described the incident as “a heartbreaking situation”. He continued: “We are deeply grateful to the emergency services, health-care staff, and chaplaincy team, who responded to this situation and who continue to care for those injured. We urge people to hold all of those affected — and all seeking to support them — in their prayers.”

The London Fire Brigade sent two fire engines and two fire-rescue units to the scene, and the London Air Ambulance was scrambled.

The Conservative MP for Wimbledon, Stephen Hammond, said that it was “an extraordinarily distressing and tragic incident on the last day of term”.

The school, on the edge of Wimbledon Common, has 319 day pupils and charges £5275 a term. It is one mile from the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, currently hosting its world-famous tennis tournament.

The school yesterday cleared its website to post this single statement: “We are profoundly shocked by the tragic accident this morning at Wilberforce House and devastated that it has claimed the life of one of our young pupils as well as injuring several others. 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.

“Now that a police investigation is underway we will not be making any further public statement for the time being and would ask that the privacy of our school community is respected at this deeply upsetting time.”

The Prime Minister said that his “deepest condolences” were with the family of the dead girl, and his thoughts were with all of those involved and injured. He described the incident as “horrific”, and said that it would have been terrifying for children, staff, and parents.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, described the incident as “absolutely devastating”, and said: “My heart goes out to everyone affected.”

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