M53 bus crash: Schoolgirl who died in motorway coach crash remembered at funeral

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Jessica Baker, who died alongside driver Stephen Shrimpton after a motorway coach crash last month has been remembered at her funeral.

A schoolgirl with a passion for climbing who died in a motorway coach crash has been remembered at her funeral. West Kirby Grammar School pupil Jessica Baker, 15, and driver Stephen Shrimpton, 40, were killed when a school coach overturned on the M53 near junction five at Hooton, Cheshire, on September 29.

On Friday mourners, wearing black and some carrying flowers, filled St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Blacon, Chester, for Jessica’s funeral, with a video link to the school next door for those who could not fit in.

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The front of the order of service showed a graphic of a climber, with a backdrop of mountains and trees, in memory of Jessica who represented the North West and Wales in climbing competitions across the UK.

It also featured photos of Jessica, including one of her as a baby and one of her holding a football. The family asked for donations to charity Climbers Against Cancer in memory of the teenager.

Jessica’s family arrived at the church walking behind the hearse which carried the coffin and floral tributes, including one which spelt her name. Her parents Sean and Sarah and sister Rebecca spoke at the service and tributes were paid by her high school and climbing club.

Her headteacher Simeon Clarke was among the mourners. Hymns including Abide With Me and Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer were sung and the poem She Is Gone was read.

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Following the service, members of her family tearfully embraced each other outside the church before the cortege travelled to Blacon Crematorium. After her death, her family said Jessica loved all sports but “her overriding passion” was for both indoor and outdoor climbing.

They said: “Despite being a teenager, Jessica was able to communicate with everyone she came into contact with regardless of their age. She was often seen offering support to fellow climbers on how to achieve a problem/route they were trying to complete.

Jessica Baker, 15, was travelling on the coach carrying pupils to West Kirby Grammar School for Girls and Calday Grange Grammar School, which struck a reservation at junction five of the M53 and overturned, just after 8am on September 29.Jessica Baker, 15, was travelling on the coach carrying pupils to West Kirby Grammar School for Girls and Calday Grange Grammar School, which struck a reservation at junction five of the M53 and overturned, just after 8am on September 29.
Jessica Baker, 15, was travelling on the coach carrying pupils to West Kirby Grammar School for Girls and Calday Grange Grammar School, which struck a reservation at junction five of the M53 and overturned, just after 8am on September 29. | handout

“Jessica was planning to explore a career in sport in some way and was due to begin her coaching qualifications later this year towards this goal.”

A total of 58 children were involved in the crash, which happened at about 8am as students were taken to West Kirby and Calday Grange grammar schools in Wirral, Merseyside.

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Four other children needed hospital treatment, including a 14-year-old boy whose injuries were said to be “life-changing”. An inquest which opened earlier this month heard driver Mr Shrimpton suffered an “event” at the wheel and was seen to “slump to the left” as the vehicle left the carriageway.

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