Ella Henderson, 6, died while playing with friends after a decaying willow tree at Gosforth Park First School fell on them. While the other children were not seriously injured, the South Tyneside magistrates court was told that the heaviest section fell directly onto Ella and caused her tragic death.

Ella was playing ballerinas with her schoolmates in 32 mph winds just before lunchtime when the horrible accident happened. The Newcastle City Council is responsible for maintaining the trees on school premises and is responsible for having failed to cut down the rotting tree in the schoolyard.

The council has since admitted failure to ensure the safety of Ella and the other school children and personnel on campus under the Health and Safety at Work Act. They have been fined £280,000, with £8,201 in costs.

Investigation revealed that the tree had already been inspected by the council in February 2018, and tagged for "further investigation" but was left forgotten. On behalf of Newcastle City Council, KC Ben Compton offered Ella's family an unreserved apology.

District Judge Zoe Passfield said one examination of the willow tree by the council team lasted only one minute. As a result of the tragedy, all trees on council land are now labelled with a safety category which is "effectively a risk assessment".

Ella's parents Neil and Vikki Henderson were emotional as their victim impact statement was read in court. "She was just playing ballerinas with her friend. Life is so unfair, she had so much to give this world," said the mother.

Ella's loved ones have since raised £30,000 for the Great North Air Ambulance Service, who quickly responded to the emergency.

Newcastle City Council chief executive Pam Smith said, "Our hearts go out to her family and friends," she said. "Whilst we take our health and safety responsibilities very seriously, we fully accept that there were failings in our processes. That is why we have taken the opportunity to plead guilty to the offence at the first available opportunity. We note the Judge's comments and fully accept the sentence of the court."

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