Kent

Bethany Freeman: Storm victim father 'making sense of loss'

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Media captionPiers Freeman drove to the site as soon as he heard the news

The father of Kent storm victim Bethany Freeman has described the moment he heard a tree had fallen on the caravan where she was sleeping, as the St Jude's Day storm battered Britain.

Piers Freeman, in his first interview since last Monday's storm, said he had just had a conversation with a neighbour about how lucky they had been in "getting away with the storm", when he found out.

"One of my sons called me and said this had happened," he said.

"From then on, it was 'get there at all costs'."

He drove from his home in Uckfield, East Sussex, to the house in Lyddens Lane, Hever, where 17-year-old Bethany lived with her mother.

"We had to get there and when we did, the emergency services had rescued her, but she had already passed away," Mr Freeman said.

He said he believed the tree that fell on Bethany was a leylandii.

He added he found "a massive, massive pile of wood sitting on top of her".

'No weather fears'

And Mr Freeman added: "In a way, I do hope it was sudden and instant, because for those of the family who were there to believe they could have done something must be impossible."

Bethany had three older brothers who had moved away, but two were staying in Kent at the time.

One had been staying with friends that night and the other brother was in a second caravan at the property.

The family had been sleeping in the two caravans while their barn conversion was renovated.

Mr Freeman, whose family have lived in Chiddingstone for generations, said he had not worried about the weather on the day of the storm.

"We brought in the garden furniture here but didn't think to spread the word in any way that there was going to be any issue there," he said.

"It seemed a nice, cosy little place."

'Acts of kindness'

Image caption Bethany's middle name, Gaia, meant 'mother earth'

Following Bethany's death, Mr Freeman said the family had been trying to make sense of "a random tree, falling in a random direction, on a random night".

He said: "At least it was a tree fall, and not a drunken car accident, because that would leave you living with anger and a desire for blame."

He also said his daughter's middle name was Gaia, which meant "mother earth".

"She was named after mother earth and she was taken by mother earth or mother nature anyway," he added.

Mr Freeman said his family were now trying to find a way to make some good to come out of what happened.

He asked people who wanted to help to make a "random act of kindness" after the random accident that killed his daughter.

People could contribute to Children in Need, make a donation, or bake a cake, whatever they could do, he said.

"I think it's vital," he said.

"This world is just too busy and too fast. People don't think about random acts of kindness, and random acts of kindness are so rewarding to the giver and the receiver, and they need so little input."

'Enormously proud'

Remembering his daughter, he said: "I had this belief that she was going to change the world and I think she would have done.

Image caption Bethany suffered fatal injuries when the tree crushed the caravan where she was sleeping

"She just had this energy and a certain amount of feistiness that she just took on the world."

He added: "I really did see the next generation in her.

"I was enormously proud of her and I'm just absolutely saddened that it was cut short."

He said even if Bethany's family had known she would only have 17 years, they could not have done more to cram things into her life.

He said she was so active and so involved in everything around her and her life had revolved around her love of sport.

The last time he saw her he said was when he dropped her at a hockey match.

"It was the usual 'see you Poppa', and off she went with her kit over her shoulder and her tracksuit pants dragging in the rain. She was a sportswoman," he said.

Bethany had been considering a gap year and had also been in the middle of applying to accountancy firms for a traineeship at the time of the accident, he added.

A post-mortem examination was being carried out on Monday.

The families are planning to organise a memorial service which is likely to be held near Bethany's home in Kent, Mr Freeman said.

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