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11-year-old girl dies after falling off water ride at British theme park

Evha Jannath was loved by her classmates. To her family, she was a beautiful girl who always had a smile on her face.

On Tuesday, a slightly chilly day in Leicester, a city several miles northwest of London, the 11-year-old joined a field trip to a theme park about an hour from her school.

About 2:30 p.m. that day, police were called to the Drayton Manor Theme Park, a family-owned tourist attraction just outside Birmingham. Evha had been seriously injured falling from a water ride.

Park staff pulled her from the water, and medics tried to revive her as she was airlifted to a hospital, according to Staffordshire police. She later died.

Jameah Girls Academy, an integrated Islamic day school for girls ages 3 to 11, was closed Wednesday as school officials provide counseling to students.

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“As a school community, we are deeply shocked and our thoughts are with our pupil’s family and friends. The school will ensure specially trained staff are in school to provide our pupils and staff support at this difficult time,” the school said in a statement Tuesday. “We would request that the family and the school community are given time to grieve.”

In a brief statement to reporters, Erfana Bora, the academy’s head teacher, called Evha a “lovely, sweet-natured girl” who was “loved by everyone at the school.”

“As a school and as a community, we are trying to make sense of this terrible tragedy. Our thoughts and our prayers are with Evha’s family in this most difficult time,” Bora said.

Evha’s family described her as “a beautiful girl who was full of love and always smiling,” BBC reported.

“Words cannot describe the pain and loss we feel, we are devastated that we will not see our beautiful girl again,” the family said in a statement.

The ride, called the Splash Canyon, was shut down after the incident. Drayton Manor is closed Wednesday “as a mark of respect to the family,” the theme park said.

The Splash Canyon, which opened at the theme park in 1993, consists of 21 circular rubber boats that each seat up to six people. The boats move through fast-flowing rapids along a makeshift jungle.

The family-owned theme park opened in 1950, a year after founder George Bryan and his wife, Vera, bought an 80-acre property outside Birmingham and turned it into a tourist attraction. Bryan died in 2013.

The park’s director, Bryan’s grandson and namesake, addressed reporters Tuesday.

“We are all truly shocked and devastated and our thoughts are with her family and friends in this tremendously difficult time,” George Bryan told reporters.

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It remains unclear how or why Evha fell off the ride, or what type of injuries she sustained.

The Health and Safety Executive, an independent agency in Britain that investigates work-related deaths and injuries, said Tuesday that it has started an investigation.

A similar ride at Dreamworld, Australia’s largest theme park, malfunctioned last October, killing four people. Two people were ejected from the large circular raft while two others were trapped inside.

A few months earlier, in August, 10-year-old Caleb Schwab died while riding the Verruckt waterslide at Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kan. The 17-story slide is considered the world’s tallest.

Schwab was the son of Kansas state Rep. Scott Schwab. His family reached a wrongful-death settlement this year with the owner of the theme park.

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