Video: Parents of ten-year-old Jemima Prees pay tribute ahead of her funeral
The parents of a ten-year-old girl from Colerne who died in a skiing accident have spoken about their loss, describing their daughter as “a real ray of sunshine”.
Jemima Prees, a pupil at Calder House School, was fatally injured while on a family half-term holiday in Austria.
Her funeral was held at the Church of St John the Baptist, in Colerne, this afternoon and the villagers flocked to pay their respects.
The service was led by the family's pastor the Rev Jonathan Sell, from the nearby Colerne Evangelical Church.
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The funeral procession, which included Jemima's parents and siblings, walked through the village on its way to the church.
Hymns included The Lord is My Shepherd and a tribute was read by Calder House head teacher Andrew Day.
Karen and Tim Prees have set up a charity called Jemima’s Gift in memory of their daughter which they hope will allow other children to follow her example and live life to the full.
In an interview with ITV, which they asked to be passed out to wider media, the couple paid tribute to Jemima.
Mrs Prees, a GP at Batheaston Medical Centre, said: “She was lovely, she was gorgeous, she was very active. She loved life. She lived every day as if it might be her last.”
Her husband, who works as a lawyer in Devizes added: “She was always a real ray of sunshine. She just had the knack of making everybody feel as if they were really important to her.
“And she had a smile for everybody. And I think she genuinely cared about other people, it wasn’t just a surface smile.”
They said the took some comfort in the fact that Jemima had made the very most of her life, making the most of all opportunities offered to her and living each day as if it might be her last.
Mrs Prees said: “She played the euphonium, she rode horses, she skied, sang, acted, danced, she was in productions here in the village.”
Mr Prees said: “She loved reading despite being a dyslexic, she sailed, she canoed, she just wanted to try everything. No day was long enough for her. She was always the first up, the last to go to bed. I don’t know whether she knew she didn’t have long here but she always acted as if she did.”
His wife added: “Sometimes she used to say ‘today might be the last day, we must all tell each other that we love each other because we may not come back this evening.’”
Mr Prees said: “She just seemed to see the bigger picture.”
With Mrs Prees adding: “She was very wise, wise beyond her years. She had things sewn up that some people never seem to grasp.”
The couple, who have two other daughters, have also talked about the day Jemima died and the fact that their son Barnaby, who is known as Barney and is a lifeguard in North Wales, battled against the odds to try to save his sister.
They said his efforts meant Jemima’s organs could be used to help others.
Mrs Prees said: “It’s a run that I’ve skied a number of times before. Barney, Jemima and I had done a number of similar red runs that afternoon. It was quite clearly within Jemima’s capabilities and she was very happy to do it.
“We were taking it fairly slowly, it was the end of the day. It was our first day on the mountain and all of a sudden she just shot past me straight down the slope, didn’t turn, didn’t appear to be out of control, she was just going absolutely straight down, and she disappeared into the trees at enormous speed.
“I couldn’t imagine what she was doing. It was completely out of character, she’s never lost control skiing ever before. She’s very safe in her skiing. It was extraordinary.
“At first we couldn’t find her in the trees, it took a few seconds to find her. She was fairly clearly dead. Barney wouldn’t accept that she was dead. He dived down amongst the trees and launched into full CPR and resuscitation. He fought for probably 40 minutes until a helicopter came.”
Mrs Prees said: “Because of that he did manage to get her heart going again, he did manage to keep her circulation going all of that time. And as a result we were able to allow the surgeons in the hospital to harvest her organs for transplant donation.
“We had a message from the mountain rescue team for Barnaby to say that never in the chief’s career had he seen such exemplary CPR administered at the site of an accident.
“And they didn’t take over from him, they allowed him to carry on because they did say they couldn’t have done any better.”
The family are now trying to adjust to a new normal way of life, missing Jemima every day but focusing on the future.
Mr Prees said: “There’s a new normal now. She will always be there, she’s been in my thoughts every moment of every day ever since but we’re learning to put one foot in front of the other and find a new way of doing things.”
“All her toys are still there, all her pictures are still there, her cats and kittens are still there.”
Mrs Prees said: “But she’s very, very sadly missed. But she had ten and a half years with us. And that ten and a half years was a perfect life. And we are very, very grateful that she shared it with us.”
Mr Prees added: “She touched so many people but we were the luckiest ones because we were her parents. And we got the best of her.”
Mrs Prees said they were now focused on the charity in the hope that it will allow their daughter’s legacy to live on.
She said: “We’ve set up a charity called Jemima’s gift because Jemima had a gift for life, for making the most out of every day. And we’d like to be able to honour her gift by gifting other children and allowing them to experience some of the activities and the best things in life like she did.
“So we would like to be able to fund activities in sport, outdoor pursuits, in the arts, in music, in learning support for dyslexia and dyspraxia or maybe travel.
“Anything that a child would like to do that perhaps they’re not in a privileged position to be able to.”
For more information about the charity go to jemimasgift.wordpress.com.