Worlingham crash youngsters thank their 999 heroes

Victoria NichollsThe true spirit of Christmas was in abundance yesterday as pupils caught up in a horrific crash were reunited with their heroes from the emergency services over a festive dinner.Victoria Nicholls

The true spirit of Christmas was in abundance yesterday as pupils caught up in a horrific crash were reunited with their heroes from the emergency services over a festive dinner.

Youngsters from Worlingham Middle School had the chance to say a special Christmas 'thank-you' to familiar faces from the ambulance, police and fire services.

For some it was the first time they had seen each other since the incident, in which eight pupils were taken to hospital after a car hit them as they were on a school walkabout on Lowestoft Road in Worlingham, near Beccles.

Headteacher Mike Croft said he had been in contact with staff from the three emergency services since the incident on September 25 and wrote to invite them as special guests to the school's Christmas lunch as a way of thanking them.

'We've had cards, emails and phone calls from people we don't even know,' he said. 'We've had money donated and toys and musical instruments given to the children. The support has been fantastic and I felt it was good for the community to see how the children were doing.'

He added: 'It also seems an opportunity of closure of a very nasty incident.'

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He said all except one of the year 5 pupils had returned to school, adding: 'Generally they're doing very well. We have still got some who are suffering from nightmares but I think that's to be expected. We've got a couple who have still physical injuries, but they are remarkably robust.'

Paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service, firefighters and police officers enjoyed a festive atmosphere as they chatted and pulled crackers with the children over a traditional turkey meal.

One of the youngsters, Charlotte Haynes, nine, said she was pleased to see people who had helped her on the scene. 'It's just really nice because we haven't seen them in quite a long while,' she said. 'We want to say a massive thank-you. They are all heroes.'

Her classmate Olivia Li, also nine, who suffered two broken legs and has been in a wheelchair since the incident, said she was looking forward to returning to the classroom some time in the new year.

But yesterday she had a surprise in store for friends and staff in the form of her arrival. 'I came in the car but I walked into school from the car park on my crutches,' she said. 'My mum's brought my wheelchair in case I needed it.'

Paramedic Steve Barnett, who spent time treating Olivia on the day of the incident, said he was impressed with her progress. 'I wanted to be here and it's the first time I've seen her. She seems to be doing fantastically well.'

Air ambulance paramedic with the Rod Wells, who saw every child caught up in the incident through a triage system set up on the day, said: 'It's an honour to be invited and it's great to see them up and about and full of life. They are certainly on the road to recovery - it's brilliant.'

Although the youngsters were disappointed to miss out on a scheduled fly-past from the air ambulance, the light snowfall that grounded the aircraft gave the special occasion an extra magical feel.

Mr Croft paid tribute to the kindness shown by the emergency services, saying: 'I just think we are lucky to have people like that. We couldn't have asked for a better service from all of them. I just can't imagine what it would have been like if we didn't have them.'

He added: 'It's a Christmas story - It's about everyone coming together and people caring about other people.'

A 40-year-old woman from Lowestoft has been rebailed in connection with the incident as test results are still awaited, and is due to appear at Lowestoft Police Station on January 29.