Family pay tribute to ‘warm-hearted’ girl who died in horror school coach crash on M53

The family of a “warm-hearted” girl who died in a horror crash have said her death has left a “massive void” in their lives that “will never be filled” as they paid tribute to the teenager.

Jessica Baker, 15, was one of two people who died after a school coach overturned on the northbound M53 near junction five at Hooton, Cheshire, at around 8am on Friday.

Coach driver Stephen Shrimpton, 40, who was remembered by his family as a “loving husband and father”, also died.

Coach driver Stephen Shrimpton, 40, who was remembered by his family as a ‘loving husband and father’, also died (Supplied)
Coach driver Stephen Shrimpton, 40, who was remembered by his family as a ‘loving husband and father’, also died (Supplied)

Jessica’s family paid tribute to her in a statement released through Merseyside Police, describing the teenager as “warm-hearted” and “wonderful” and telling of her passion for climbing.

It reads: “Jessica was a warm-hearted, wonderful daughter, granddaughter and niece, devoted sister and loyal friend.

“A talented climber, based at the Boardroom Climbing centre academy where she helped coach younger climbers and competed around the country inspiring others.

“At the age of 15, just starting Year 11 at West Kirby Grammar School, where her focus was not just on academic work but also sports, representing the school at many events.

“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.”

Simeon Clarke, the headteacher of West Kirby Grammar School, has also paid tribute to Jessica, describing her as “unequivocally kind and empathetic” and telling of how she will be “greatly and sadly missed”.

He said: “Our thoughts – and I know the thoughts of the wider school community – are with Jessica’s family and friends at this unimaginably sad and difficult time.

“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.”

Father of two Mr Shrimpton was driving more than 50 schoolchildren to the all-boys Calday Grange Grammar School and the all-girls West Kirby Grammar School when it hit a reservation on the M53 near Junction 5 and flipped over.

His family has claimed he “suffered medical issues behind the wheel” before the crash.

Eyewitnesses have described how injured children climbed through windows to escape from the wreckage.

A 14-year-old boy suffered life-changing injuries and four other children were taken to hospital for treatment.

Mr Clarke spoke of Jessica’s sporting prowess and rock climbing achievements.

He said: “Jessica was also a keen sportswoman, representing her house and the school in numerous competitions, and demonstrating an unwavering love of – and commitment to – rock climbing, where she had previously represented Wales in national competitions.

“Jessica will be greatly and sadly missed by her friends, teammates, classmates, and all at West Kirby Grammar School who had the pleasure and privilege to encounter her.”

Mr Clarke said the school will be working closely with the teenager’s family and friends this week to ensure they all “celebrate Jessica’s life in the most fitting way possible”.

He added that support will continue to be available for the school community.