A mother tried to comfort her dying 17-year-old daughter as she lay trapped by a tree that had fallen on the caravan where she was living during building work on her family's farmhouse.
Bethany Freeman, a gifted grammar-schoolgirl, was killed by the 30ft tree which was uprooted by the St Jude's Storm and toppled onto her caravan as she slept. As neighbours and emergency workers battled to free her, her mother Tess Peirce attempted to comfort her by talking to her through the walls. But by the time the tree was lifted, it was too late to save her.
A neighbour, Helen O'Connell, said: "Tess came round here wanting some help. She was absolutely distraught. She said she had come out of her caravan this morning and had found the other caravan with her daughter in it had been flattened by a huge fallen tree.
"Tess said she could hear Beth speaking. She wanted our help to get her out. All the neighbours came out to try and help. "A farmer came round with his JCB to try and lift the tree off the crushed caravan. It was awful. We were trying to console Tess while they tried to get Beth out.
"I think Tess was trying to talk to Beth, trying to comfort her. There was no power because the electricity had gone off so we couldn't use any power tools. Neighbours were rallying to find a petrol-run chainsaw, which eventually someone did. "But eventually they said Beth had died and there was nothing anyone could do."
The family were living in caravans while renovation work was taking place to convert an existing barn in Hever, near Edenbridge, into their "dream home", although there had been delays, neighbours said.
The mother's nearby caravan was untouched by the storm. Farmer Greg Pickering was asked by the police to use his JCB truck in rescue efforts, but after pulling the tree from the caravan, paramedics were unable to resuscitate the schoolgirl.
"Apparently at seven o'clock this morning she'd been able to speak to her mother from under the tree but there had been nothing from her since then," he said.
"Her mum and two brothers were completely devastated, they were inconsolable. There were absolutely horrific scenes. They'd been looking to build their dream home there and were living in the caravans while that was happening but they were having difficulties with planning permission. It's all so terribly tragic."
Another neighbour, who had helped in the rescue efforts added: "It's ridiculous that police don't carry chainsaws in rural areas any more, especially when they knew there was going to be a storm.
"We tried, but there wasn't anything we could do. It's such a tragedy. They were a really lovely family, this whole community will be badly affected." Bethany was an upper sixth form pupil at Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School, where teachers described her as "universally respected" and with "everything to look forward to".
In a statement, the school said: "Through her hard work and enthusiasm for sport she will never be forgotten. Her close friends and teachers, as well as the wider school community, will miss her beyond measure, and the school will do all we can to support girls as they struggle to come to terms with Beth's untimely death."
As well as an "extremely well respected" student she was an "outstanding sportswoman" who represented her county and local clubs in hockey, cricket and netball, and dedicated much of her time to coaching younger girls, the school said. Sevenoaks District Council said the family had planning permission to convert a barn into a mix of residential, office and tourist accommodation, and work has been ongoing since last year.