Schoolgirl’s tragic death leads to safety boost for families

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The tragic death of a schoolgirl in a road accident in Thakeham has led to a boost for the safety of other youngsters.

A charitable foundation was established in the name of Ellie Thornton, 11, after she died while crossing Storrington Road in Thakeham in March 2017.

Now a partnership between the foundation, two schools and West Sussex County Council has led to safety improvements.

The Ellie Thornton Foundation, Thakeham Primary and neighbouring Steyning Grammar, have funded a school crossing patrol body camera. The aim is to help prevent abusive behaviour by drivers and improve safety. The council has provided training and will give ongoing support to crossing patrol officer Mick Bassett.

Ellie was a pupil at Rydon Community College - now Steyning Grammar - and the foundation will champion what was important to her, and what is important to her family, in her name.

One of the causes the foundation supports is to help road safety initiatives and education.

Ellie’s dad Ben Thornton, co-founder and chairman of the foundation, said: “I am really pleased that The Ellie Thornton Foundation has been able to support the two schools in improving road safety around the school crossing, with the purchase and introduction of the body-worn camera.

“This is now the second camera we have helped purchase and, with the county council’s assistance, we hope to continue helping to fund cameras for other schools.

“We will continue to champion road safety for children travelling to and from school, a topic which is incredibly important to us. Schools try hard to keep pupils safe on their routes to school but there is only so much they can do. “We hope the cameras will encourage drivers to behave in a way that does not increase risk to pedestrians.”

Both Thakeham Primary and Steyning Grammar hope the crossing patrol’s new body camera will help deter inconsiderate driving and encourage even more parents to walk their children to school.

The county council’s crossing patrol team, working in conjunction with Sussex Police, encourages schools to use body cameras to deter ‘drive throughs’ and abusive behaviour outside school gates.

A county council spokesman said the cameras were worn across the chest to capture audio and video of motorists driving dangerously, or being abusive towards patrols while they helped children and parents across the road.

If footage is captured of an offence, it is passed to Sussex Police to consider as evidence for possible prosecution.

Anyone interested in arranging a camera for a school crossing patrol outside their school can contact Louise Bishop on 033022 26744 or email louise.bishop@westsussex.gov.uk

Pictured are Steyning Grammar deputy head Nat Nicol, Thakeham Primary head teacher Sam Norton, school crossing patrol officer Mick Bassett, Ellie Thornton Foundation co-founder and chairman Ben Thornton, handing over the camera, and county council project lead for crossing patrol body cameras, Louise Bishop. They are pictured with Steyning Grammar students and Thakeham Primary’s junior road safety officers, who are young ambassadors for road safety within the school.