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Tributes paid to passenger Valerie Barnes, from Gateshead, killed in plane crash on Queen’s Sandringham Estate

PUBLISHED: 15:03 13 September 2017 | UPDATED: 16:47 13 September 2017

Valerie Barnes, who died in a plane crash on the Queen's Sandringham Estate. Picture: COURTESY OF CHRONICLE LIVE

Valerie Barnes, who died in a plane crash on the Queen's Sandringham Estate. Picture: COURTESY OF CHRONICLE LIVE

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Heartfelt tributes have been paid to a much-loved former Gateshead school worker who was killed in a plane crash.

Wreckage is removed from the scene where a light aircraft crashed on marshland near Wolferton in Norfolk on Monday, September 11. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA WireWreckage is removed from the scene where a light aircraft crashed on marshland near Wolferton in Norfolk on Monday, September 11. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Valerie Barnes, 73, from Whickham, died when the light aircraft she was travelling in came down close to the Queen’s Sandringham Estate near the village of Wolferton, Norfolk, on Monday morning.

The popular pensioner, who was due to turn 74 in October, worked and volunteered for 23 years at Kelvin Grove Primary School and established herself as a valuable member of the Bensham community.

Speaking to ChronicleLive in Newcastle just days after her death, school headteacher Andy Jones has revealed the devastating news has left the school in “absolute shock”.

He said: “For a number of years Valerie ran our office and was the face of Kelvin Grove.

Aerial view of Wolferton.

Taken by Mike Page.Aerial view of Wolferton. Taken by Mike Page.

“She was an advocate for the school and the local community who was well respected by children and parents for that.

“The news of her tragic death has hit the school hard - we’re in absolute shock.”

MORE: Pilot who died in plane crash on Queen’s Sandringham Estate named as Nigel Dodds

Mum-of-one Valerie worked as the school’s admin officer, but continued to volunteer and support the children following her retirement almost a decade ago.

The keen amateur dramatist ran the school’s fundraising show Kelvin’s Got Talent and an after school gymnastics group, as well as serving as a school governor.

The roads were blocked in Wolferton by Police after a light aircraft crashed on the Royal Estate. Picture: Ian BurtThe roads were blocked in Wolferton by Police after a light aircraft crashed on the Royal Estate. Picture: Ian Burt

Valerie was also an active member of the school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings, before finally ending her long-standing association with the school two years ago.

Mr Jones added: “Valerie would organise school fairs and Christmas discos to fundraise, as well as add to the children’s school experience.

MORE: Pilot’s ‘distraught’ SOS call moments before tragic plane crash on Queen’s Sandringham Estate

“She was incredibly active in the school and along with her multiple roles at Kelvin Grove, she had her amateur dramatics. She lived life to the full.”

A male pilot - believed to be in his 50s and also from Gateshead, was also killed in the crash. The cause of the accident is now under investigation by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB).

Admin assistant Susan Herring, who worked alongside Valerie for almost a decade, believes her former colleague’s heavy involvement at Kelvin Grove proves just how much she loved the school.

She said: “She was a caring person. She cared about the school and the children.

“Valerie’s job was very important to her. When she actually retired and left it was a sad day, the children were quite upset because they all loved her.

MORE: Tributes continue to pour in for two people killed in light aircraft crash on Queen’s Sandringham Estate

Away from her community work and involvement at Kelvin Grove, Valerie had a passion for flying and a flair for amateur dramatics.

The pensioner was involved with South Moor Musical Theatre Group in Stanley for 56 years, appearing in dozen shows down the years at the Alun Armstrong Theatre in the town’s Civic Hall.

Following the tragic news, chairperson Lindsay Kellegher paid tribute to a talented performer who served as the ‘heartbeat’ of the group.

She said: “She was absolutely wonderful, she had such a zest for life. She really was the hearbeat of our group and inspirational with the younger members.

“She will be greatly missed by us all, everyone just loved her.

“We’ve lost a really special person, it’s tragic.”

Valerie leaves behind her husband Meredith and a daughter Helen.

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