How would you feel if your son, away at boarding school, was involved in an accident and died and you only found out about it after the school authorities posted it on the school website? Well this is a family’s dilemma in Sussex, England.
- William Avery-Wright died outside Worth School in Sussex on way to rugby
- His father Christopher received condolences as he rushed to hospital
- School had placed message on website before police contacted the family
- Mr and Mrs Avery-Wright suing school and call for headteacher to resign
A father learned his son had died in a road accident after the 13 year-old’s elite boarding school posted the news on its website.
William Avery-Wright was knocked down and killed by a Range Rover as he crossed a road to the sports fields at £30,000-a-year Worth School in Sussex.
His insurance broker father Christopher had been told of the accident and was racing to hospital from his office when he started receiving calls, texts and emails of condolence.
Friends had seen the school’s announcement which had been made before police had formally informed Mr Avery-Wright of his talented son’s death.
The tragic detail emerged as Mr Avery-Wright, 48, and his wife Lisa, 43, decided to sue the school for alleged failures in their duty of care to their son.
They claim William and his classmates should have been supervised by an adult as they crossed the B2110 to the school’s rugby pitches.
The couple say they have been ‘living a life sentence’ since the death in November 2011 – aggravated by the way Mr. Avery-Wright learned of the tragedy.
They have launched a civil action for damages and have called for school’s headmaster Gino Carminati to resign but he has been exonerated by his board of governors.
Mrs Avery-Wright said yesterday: ‘The school made the decision to post the news on its website almost immediately – before William’s body had even been formally identified.
‘So many people read about it on Facebook and Christopher was flooded with messages, emails and texts.
‘We have no idea why the school would have done that. My husband should not have found out on his way to the hospital.
‘The decision to put it online is not currently part of our legal case but we want lessons to be learned from William’s death – that is why we are battling on.’
Mrs Avery-Wright dashed to the scene of the accident from the family’s home in Crowborough, Sussex and found her tragic son’s football boots still lying in the road.
She said: ‘When I got there I saw the road cordoned off and I remember seeing William’s football boots alone on the road and I knew immediately.
‘I just completely broke down. That is the only description I could give.
‘For a few weeks after I just gave up and curled up on the sofa and cried. I was just in total shock.
‘I was traumatised at what had happened.
‘I was taken to hospital by the police. The police said not to tell Christopher what had happened on the phone and that it was an appalling way to break the news.’
She added: ‘The school has a good reputation – that is why we chose it.
‘I just do not know what they were thinking not escorting the children across the road.
‘You do not expect your child to go to school, but not come home. That is why we feel the school have to take some responsibility.
‘We trusted them to look after William.’
Mrs Avery-Wright said she and her husband would be happy ‘not to receive a penny’ if Worth School accepted its mistakes.
She said: ‘It has been difficult to keep going but we won’t stop until we get to the end of the line.
‘We’re living a life sentence because of it and William lost his life
‘We believe it is only fair someone should stand up and be counted.’
NO MORE THAN 18 PUPILS IN EACH CLASS
Maximum class size is 18 pupils
Fully introduced female pupils into the school in 2010
99% pupils receive higher education
8% pupils attend Oxford or Cambridge
It costs £9,650 per term for Y9-13 boarders and £6,980 per term for day pupils. Fees do not include instrument tuition, deposits, examination fees or guardians for overseas students.
The couple’s solicitors said they had received a letter from the school accepting liability for the accident but a final settlement has yet to be agreed.
They added that the school has put a chaperone on the crossing since the crash and the playing fields have been used less for sports lessons.
Sussex Police have said no criminal charges will be bought against either the school or the driver.
An inquest is yet to take place and William’s parents said they expect more than a verdict of accidental death.
A spokeswoman for Worth School today said: ‘The school attempted last year to resolve a claim under the fatal accidents act but unfortunately that remains outstanding.
‘On the date of the accident the school attempted at all times to act correctly and it deeply regrets if any of its actions contributed to the distress of Mr and Mrs Avery-Wright.
‘The school continues to feel every sympathy and extend condolences to the Avery-Wright family in their tragic loss.’
William was a day boy at Worth School which is near Crawley, and was in the ‘A’ team for the school’s football, cricket and rugby teams.
The popular pupil also excelled in the classroom and enjoyed various subjects including Latin and English.
Mr Avery-Wright today claimed Worth School had written two letters to West Sussex County Council prior to William’s death in relation to concerns over the safety of the road, which bisects the school.
Mr Avery-Wright said: ‘Worth wrote two letters to West Sussex County Council before William’s death (in 2007 and 2010) predicting a RTA fatality and a tragedy on the road which bisects the school.
‘No measures were consequently taken to reduce the 60mph speed limit until after William’s death.
‘Despite these prescient letters from the school, they failed to provide William or his team mates on 30th November 2011 with adult supervision to cross the road with a 60mph speed limit.
‘The school cut my wife and me off their parental e-mail circulation immediately after William’s fatal accident, without consulting us, and announced William’s death to parents before I had been informed as his father.
‘The school subsequently named William and announced his death in to the public domain on their website, before William’s body had formally been identified.
‘Within 5 weeks of William’s death, we received an e-mail from the school requesting Lisa and me to remove the floral tributes to William from the roadside.’