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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Hundreds attend vigil for Keswick School bus crash victims

Hundreds of people in Cumbria and beyond joined together for a moving late-night tribute to the three victims of the Keswick coach crash last night.

Chinese lanterns were released and candles were lit in memory of Chloe Walker, 16, Kieran Goulding, 15, and Patrick Short, 68, who died on the A66 at Braithwaite a week ago.

The poignant mass vigil was organised by west Cumbrian woman Claire Benson, who set up a group on social networking site Facebook.

About 4,000 signed up to take part, either by joining a public event or taking time out from their evening to light a candle and pay their respects.

And the interest wasn’t just local, with people from as far afield as Egypt, Dubai, Italy and Ireland joining in.

Public vigils were organised in Keswick, Whitehaven, Frizington, Cleator, Cockermouth, Broughton Moor, Workington and Carlisle, all at 10pm.

At least 300 people gathered in the field in front of Keswick School, where both Chloe and Kieran were pupils.

The emotional tribute saw the town’s skies filled with about 100 glowing lanterns, all floating off into the night.

Groups of friends then gathered together to light candles. Some stayed late into the night, saying prayers, while others held private vigils down by the lake.

Keswick Mayor Martin Pugmire said: “It’s been very informal but very special.

“Nearly everyone has children, friends or relatives at the school or knows someone involved. They want opportunities to come together to commemorate and celebrate the lives of those lost.

“It’s much harder to handle those things by yourself than with others who feel similar. This has hit Keswick hard but it’s not just the town. The whole of north west Cumbria has been affected.”

Both Chloe, of Park Street, Frizington and Kieran, of Hillcrest, Whitehaven, were on their way home when the accident, involving their school bus, happened.

It was involved in a head-on collision with a car, driven by Mr Short, of Braithwaite.

Many of their friends gathered at Whitehaven harbour last night, where there were similar scenes to those in Keswick

Standing at the foot of the Candlestick, people came together to light tea lights and release hundreds of lanterns into the sky.

Organiser Claire, who was at the Whitehaven vigil, said she initially set the group up so people could hold their own tributes, all at the same time, but it soon spiralled into something much bigger.

She told the News & Star: “Because I’ve been so busy setting it up it hasn’t really sunk in yet but it ended up being something really special."

She said that both Kieran and Chloe’s families were holding their own private memorials at the same time as the public events, which made it all the more special.

“I’m really happy with how it all went. I didn’t realise just how much people needed it.

“A lot of Chloe’s close friends took part in Whitehaven and there was one girl there who had actually been in the accident. Her mam said she needed to come to something like this to help her come to terms with it all.

“It was just nice to see everyone coming together and filling the sky with lanterns. They were beautiful.”

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