The Italian ski resort of Claviere, where 13-year-old Poonam Bhattal died after falling from a ski lift

Tributes have been paid to Poonam Bhattal, who died after falling from a ski lift during a school trip to the Italian Alps.

The 13-year-old girl is believed to have fallen 16ft on to the piste in the resort of Claviere.

Bhattal was having ski lessons with classmates from the Guru Nanak Sikh Academy in Hayes, Middlesex, when she got on the chairlift on the morning of Friday 22 February.

Although the schoolgirl from Slough initially survived the fall, she died en route to a hospital 25 miles away in Susa.

Skibound, which organised the trip, said Bhattal was pronounced dead at 08:30 GMT on Friday, on the way to hospital.

Local police commissioner Francesco Destro told Sky News: "The ski lift was moving very fast and rising fast when she fell." He said he could not recall a similar accident.

Destro added that the girl was initially conscious and answered questions when officers came to her aid but "did not make it".

Police have launched an investigation and are due to question the teenager's classmates, who boarded the lift with her.

The school's principal, Rajinder Singh Sandhu, broke the news of the teenager's death to her family.

In a statement, he said the half-term excursion was led by the deputy head of the school with the help of two assistant head teachers and "a massively experienced team of eight staff.

"The leader of this trip and everyone associated with it is devastated by the death of an absolutely lovely student."

The school said the vice-principal leading the trip had "vast experience", was "obsessive about safety" and had led 28 trips throughout his career.

"Our thoughts are with the family and all others in the community affected by this tragedy."

A full investigation by the Italian authorities has begun.

While the exact circumstances are not yet clear, the local prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello said he had opened a manslaughter investigation to determine why the safety bar that usually keeps skiers in place had not prevented the fall.

The school party had been on a seven-day trip and remains in Italy.

Friends of Bhattal posted tributes to her on Twitter.

One user, @jaskiretxo, said: "Poonam Bhattal a beautiful girl who we were all so lucky to have known, may our thoughts be with Amreeta and her family. RIP beautiful xox".

Another, @TharanVirdi, posted a photo of a girl wearing black-rimmed glasses, and said: "Poonam, You will be dearly missed, thoughts and prayers go out to your family. Waheguru #gonetoosoon #RipPoonam x".