An 11-year-old girl has died after falling off a rapid river ride into the water during a school trip to Drayton Manor theme park in Staffordshire, UK.

Police confirmed the girl, from Leicester, suffered serious injuries and died shortly after being airlifted to Birmingham Children's Hospital.

She had fallen from the Splash Canyon ride at the theme park in Drayton Bassett, and shocked visitors told how they heard crying and screaming coming from the main entrance of the ride after the accident, on Tuesday afternoon (local time).

Further to a police statement which has just been issued, it is with great sadness we have to report that a young girl...

Posted by Drayton Manor on Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Medics desperately tried to save her life while she was being flown to hospital but were unable to.

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Park director George Bryan looked visibly shaken as he spoke of the staff's "shock and devastation'" at the girl's death.

He said: "We are all truly shocked and devastated, and our thoughts are with the family and friends at this horrendously difficult time."

A teacher was believed to be on the ride or nearby and the Health and Safety Executive has confirmed it will be investigating the circumstances of the death.

Superintendent Carl Ratcliffe, of Staffordshire Police, said: "Specially trained officers are supporting the girl's family at this difficult time. Our thoughts are very much with her family and friends following this tragic incident."

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: "On arrival, crews discovered a girl with serious injuries who had been rescued from the water by park staff.

"Ambulance staff administered advanced life support before she was flown to Birmingham Children's Hospital with the doctor continuing treatment en-route.

"Unfortunately, shortly after arrival at hospital the girl passed away."

A spokesperson for Staffordshire Police added: "We can confirm the patient was on a school trip. A teacher must have either been inside the ride or in close proximity but that will be a matter for the HSE to investigate."

Witness Matt Mason, 44, said: "I was on Splash Canyon just before the person who fell in.

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"Didn't see it happen but was collecting my family photo when a lady came up to the collection booth to say that a girl had fallen in. She was pretty calm so we assumed it was nothing major.

"Shortly afterwards, police, fire and ambulances arrived and the ride and whole area was closed. No one seemed panicked over an hour later when we left."

The Health and Safety Executive tweeted it was investigating and said: "HSE has been made aware of today's incident at #draytonmanor and making initial inquiries along with emergency services."

Witnesses said a large area of the park had been closed off, but some sections were still open.

Witness Graham Johnstone, 40, said: "The first I knew something was wrong when I saw staff running over to the ride and turn people away. Minutes later an air ambulance appeared overhead. All you could hear was crying coming from the steps leading to the ride entrance.

"It was awful. Somebody said a little child had drowned but you just don't know."

Fiona Fletcher, 28, from Burton upon Trent was at the park with her two young daughters.

She said: "The first I heard of it was when a car came charging through clearing the path and then paramedics flew past. My kids and I had just got off the carousel ride and all we could hear were sirens. It really scared my daughters.

"The entrance to the Splash Canyon was probably a few hundred yards from where I was standing and there was clearly a huge commotion. I saw six fire engines, at least five police cars, four ambulances and two paramedic cars and an air ambulance.

"They put metal barriers up around the whole area so no one could get in. It was a quiet day - there was only a few hundred in the park. During the day I saw a couple of big groups of children but I couldn't say where they were from.

"I overheard the staff saying 'don't tell anyone yet' and were hurrying people away. They just flooded the area with staff ushering people away from the scene. Everyone just looked confused and were asking questions."

The ride at Drayton Manor Park photographed a few years ago when a reality TV series was being filmed. Photo / Getty
The ride at Drayton Manor Park photographed a few years ago when a reality TV series was being filmed. Photo / Getty

Visitors to the park spoke of their shock and confusion on social media when the ride was initially closed.

David Charles tweeted: "Air ambulance, police and several fire units here at Drayton Manor. Large area now closed off. Not sure what's going on."

Meanwhile Oonagh Law said on the theme park's Facebook page: "Should have checked this ride Sunday. The carriages were getting stuck when we were on it."

The Splash Canyon ride was opened in 1993 and consists of 21 boats holding six people each. The minimum height for people is 90cm. Anyone under 1.1m must be accompanied by an adult.

The theme park website says: "Hold on tight and experience Drayton Manor Park's very own river rapids. Swerve around corners, splash through the waves, and get soaked as your boat is swept along our fast-flowing rapids.

"No two experiences are ever the same, so grab your friends and family, climb on board one of our circular boats, and get ready for a wild ride through the water!

"You'll feel like you're in the middle of the jungle as you speed, bounce, and splash your way around our river, past other rides and through the trees, experiencing the most unpredictable and thrilling of river rapid rides. It's called Splash Canyon for a reason."

One of the comments on the Drayton Manor Facebook page noted similarities with the ride that malfunctioned at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast last year.
One of the comments on the Drayton Manor Facebook page noted similarities with the ride that malfunctioned at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast last year.

The tragedy follows the deaths of four people on the Thunder River Rapids Ride at Dreamworld on Australia's Gold Coast in October last year. New Zealand woman Cindy Low was one of those who died when a raft hit a stationary raft and flipped backwards. The ride is now being decommissioned and turned into a memorial.