School coach crash victim Jessica Baker, 15, was 'warm-hearted, wonderful' girl, family say in poignant tribute

1 October 2023, 15:02 | Updated: 1 October 2023, 15:13

Jessica Baker was a 'warm-hearted, wonderful' girl, her family have said
Jessica Baker was a 'warm-hearted, wonderful' girl, her family have said. Picture: Handout

By Kit Heren

The family of a 15-year-old schoolgirl who died in a coach crash this week have paid tribute to their "warm hearted wonderful daughter, granddaughter and niece, devoted sister and loyal friend."

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The crash took place on the M53 motorway near Liverpool on Friday morning, as children were being taken to Calday Grange Grammar School and West Kirby Grammar School for girls.

Jessica Baker, 15, died in the crash alongside the driver, Stephen Shrimpton. A 14-year-old boy is in hospital with life-changing injuries. Some 52 more passengers were hurt and needed treatment.

Jessica's family paid tribute to her on Sunday, calling her "a warm hearted wonderful daughter, granddaughter and niece, devoted sister and loyal friend."

They added that she was "a talented climber, based at the Boardroom climbing centre Academy where she helped coach younger climbers and competed around the country inspiring others."

Jessica Baker died in the crash
Jessica Baker died in the crash. Picture: Handout

Jessica had recently started at West Kirby Grammar School "where her focus was not just on academic work but also sports representing the school at many events."

The family added: "Her untimely death has led to a massive void in our lives that will never be filled.

"She will be missed by many from not only school but also the climbing community across the country."

Her headteacher Simeon Clarke said: "Unequivocally kind and empathetic, Jessica was a dedicated friend who was a well-liked and respected member of our school community. 

"She was an unassuming, polite and conscientious student who exemplified the values of our school."

Mr Shrimpton died in the crash
Mr Shrimpton died in the crash. Picture: Facebook

It comes after the family of Mr Shrimpton said he was a "caring and thoughtful man" who "always prioritised others over himself.

Mr Shrimpton, a husband and a father of two young children, "was a loving husband and father to his wife and his wonderful children," his family said on Saturday.

They added that he was "a caring and thoughtful man who would always prioritise others over himself."

"Stephen will be sadly missed by all his friends and family," the tribute read. "The family have requested privacy at this devastating time."

Mr Shrimpton suffered a medical problem during the trip, his sister-in-law said earlier.

She added: "He tragically died in an accident on the M53 on the morning on the 29th of September, after suffering medical issues at the wheel while driving students to school.

Mr Shrimpton leaves behind a wife and two children
Mr Shrimpton leaves behind a wife and two children. Picture: Facebook

"He’s sadly left behind my sister who’s now a widow in her early thirties, and unfortunately a single mum along side his much loved two young children who are only 8 and 4, who are going to grow up without their beloved father.

Jessica Baker, 15, was the other victim of the crash, police confirmed on Friday.

Police said: "Jessica's family have requested that their privacy is respected at this time and any updates from them will be issued via the Merseyside Police news office as appropriate."

A total of 58 people, including Mr Shrimpton, were on the school bus.

Children caught up in the crash were taken to the Countess of Chester and Arrowe Park Hospitals.

Police said 39 people had been discharged needing no further treatment and another 13 suffered minor injuries and have been released.

Two people died in the crash
Two people died in the crash. Picture: Alamy

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Merseyside Police's Local Policing Superintendent Sabi Kaur said: "This was a truly horrific incident and the impact on this will have been felt far and wide not only in Wirral but across Merseyside.

"Our thoughts are very much with the family and friends of the girl and the bus driver as well as with those who have been impacted by this incident and we will do everything we can to support them in the coming days and weeks.

"We would ask anyone who witnessed the collision or believes they have captured something significant to contact us as a matter of urgency.

"We would also ask the public to avoid speculating on the incident or posting information or images which could be distressing for the families and those involved."

A "major incident" was declared by hospitals following the collision but the situation has since "de-escalated".

Witnesses said children escaped from the back window and were stood on the M53 hard shoulder after the bus crashed.

Scene on the M53 this morning
Scene on the M53 this morning. Picture: Global

Firefighters helped passengers exit the bus, with Mark Thomas, area manager of Merseyside Fire and Rescue service, saying: "Firefighters worked with emergency services colleagues at scene to stabilise the vehicle. We ensured the scene was safe, and we assisted casualties exiting the bus.

"Working jointly with our police and ambulance colleagues, shortly after we were able to assist the casualties onto a second coach to receive care away from the scene.

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"Our operations are currently scaling down, and currently we stay at the scene, in attendance, to preserve the scene with Merseyside Police whilst an investigation is conducted.

"The thoughts of everyone at Merseyside Police Fire and Rescue Service are with the friends, the colleagues, and the families of all of those involved in this terrible incident."

Emergency services convoy leads coach of survivors off M53 after horror school bus crash

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Around 10 police vehicles, four fire engines and five ambulances raced to the area in Merseyside just after 8am.

North West Air Ambulance Services also scrambled to the scene, where part of the motorway was closed entirely.

Calday Grammar School in the Wirral has tweeted: "A situation involving one of our school buses on the highway earlier today has come to our attention. 

"If you need to talk or seek guidance, please reach out to our teaching and pastoral teams."

Councillor for Upton by Chester Sherin Akhtar posted a statement on Facebook which reads: "I can confirm and am aware of an accident on the M53 this morning going towards the Wirral/ Birkenhead. 

"It involves a Carvers coach (W3) travelling to Calday Grange Grammar School and West Kirby Grammar school for girls."

A witness who tweeted a photo showing a bus lying on its side wrote: "Crash on the M53 towards Liverpool just after J5. Coach on the side with school kids escaping for the back window.

"Hope all the kids got out ok."

Another said: "Drove past that was awful to see all the kids standing on the hard shoulder."