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Police and HSE to investigate death of girl killed in mudslide on school trip

Leah Harrison, from Darlington, died while on an instructor-led walk at the council-run Carlton Adventure centre.

Police and health and safety investigators will probe the death of a 10-year-old girl killed in a mudslide while on a school trip.

Leah Harrison, from Darlington, died following an incident at Carlton Bank on the edge of the North York Moors on Wednesday.

The Year Six pupil was on an instructor-led walk at the council-run Carlton Adventure centre, which has suspended all its activities while an investigation is carried out.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be carrying out a joint investigation with North Yorkshire Police into the incident, a spokesperson confirmed.

A major operation involving 30 mountain rescuers was launched to save Leah, in weather conditions they described as “very poor”, but she died at the scene.

Denise McGuckin, managing director of Hartlepool Borough Council, which operates Carlton Adventure said: ‘‘We can confirm that a tragic incident occurred during one of the Centre’s instructor-led outdoor education forest walks near to Carlton-in-Cleveland yesterday.

“We are utterly devastated and heartbroken and our thoughts are with Leah’s family and friends and all those affected.

“We are working closely with our partner agencies to carry out a full investigation and we are temporarily suspending all outdoor activities and residential breaks managed by the Council.

“Whilst the investigation is being carried out it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

Carlton Bank near Carlton-in-Cleveland
Carlton Bank near Carlton-in-Cleveland (Owen Humphreys/PA)

In a statement, Leah’s family said on Thursday: “Leah Harrison, the happy, bubbly, go-lucky little girl.

“The beautiful smile, the giddy laugh, the silly jokes.

“You will never ever be forgotten baby girl.

“You will achieve your dream and become a player for the Lionesses.

“Spread those wings. May you rest in paradise.”

Leah was a pupil at Mount Pleasant Primary School, which is part of Lingfield Education Trust.

Its chief executive Nick Blackburn said: “The full details are still emerging but this is clearly a heartbreaking tragedy.

“Leah was a much-loved part of our school and our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and the school staff.

“Counselling is being arranged within the school for pupils and staff.

“We are all in a state of shock and we would ask that the privacy of the family and the school community is respected while we try to come to terms with what has happened.”

The emergency services were called at around 1.15pm on Wednesday.

Gary Clarke, callout officer for Cleveland Mountain Rescue, said conditions were “very poor”.

He said: “It was very wet all day, quite foggy and misty up there and very cold and it made the conditions very hardgoing for the rescue.”

He said 19 rescuers initially turned out, increasing to 30 as the severity of the operation became apparent.

They used a “technical rope rescue system” to recover her body from the dangerous landslip, Mr Clarke said.

He said the incident happened on a path off the Cleveland Way.

“As far as we are aware, they were part of a school party, where exactly they started and where they were going, we’re not sure, we don’t get to see that side of things,” he said.

“We were acting on behalf of the police service.

“But there was just a school party out for a walk on the North York Moors which many schools do quite often, all year round.

“It’s really a matter for the police investigating now, we’re not exactly sure what happened, but from what we can gather what we saw in that scene, it was just something of a freak force of nature accident.

“It’s something that we’ve never seen or experienced before.”

The area was cordoned off throughout the afternoon and members of the public were asked to avoid the area.

North Yorkshire Police said Leah’s family were being supported by specially trained officers and the force asked for them to be given space to grieve.

Denise McGuckin, Managing Director of Hartlepool Borough Council, which operates Carlton Adventure said: ‘‘We can confirm that a tragic incident occurred during one of the Centre’s instructor-led outdoor education forest walks near to Carlton-in-Cleveland yesterday.

“We are utterly devastated and heartbroken and our thoughts are with Leah’s family and friends and all those affected.

“We are working closely with our partner agencies to carry out a full investigation and we are temporarily suspending all outdoor activities and residential breaks managed by the Council.

“Whilst the investigation is being carried out it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

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