The family of a young mother who died after she fell from a moving taxi paid an emotional tribute to her yesterday, describing her death as “meaningless”.
Katie Bennett, aged 21, suffered severe head injuries after falling out of the cab in Newchapel, north Staffordshire, in the early hours of Saturday. The mother-of-one was taken to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire where she died on Monday morning, Staffordshire Police said.
In a statement released by the force, her family said: “Katie was taken from her family and her two-year-old daughter in a meaningless way that should never, ever have happened.
“Katie was a kind-hearted, fun-loving, popular girl who will be sadly missed by all. We are all left now to raise her daughter and hopefully make Katie very proud.
“Unfortunately, Katie will miss out on the simple parts of her daughter’s life - her first day at school, her first friend, nativity plays, and the important times - her first boyfriend, marriage, children.
“All of this for an incident that should not have happened. We would like to thank all the staff at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, organ donor organisations and also the police, who have worked quickly and with compassion.”
Neighbours said Katie lived with her mother, three sisters and her two-year-old daughter Mia in Meadow Court, just 50 yards from the scene of the tragedy.
The family is believed to have moved to Newchapel from the Manchester area about a year ago.
Locals said her death is believed to have followed a dispute about the taxi fare. A shop worker, who did not wish to be named, said: “As far as we can gather there was a misunderstanding about the fare.
“Whether the taxi driver thought she had got out when she hadn’t, I don’t know.”
She added: “Katie was a lovely woman and she used to come into the shop on a weekly basis.”
Shopkeeper Michael Prosser said he had also heard there had been a disagreement about the fare. The local newsagent, who also owns Newchapel’s off-licence, added: “Katie was quiet but sweet and always smiling.”
The 21-year-old is said to have visited a nightclub in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, and was returning to Newchapel with friends when she was injured.
Police arrested the driver of the taxi, a 30-year-old local man, in the early hours of Monday. He was later bailed without charge, pending further inquiries.
A police spokeswoman said Miss Bennett and six friends had taken the taxi from Hanley town centre, in Stoke-on-Trent, to the high street in Newchapel, at 2am.
The spokeswoman added: “On arrival, several of the passengers had left the vehicle. However, one passenger remained in the vehicle, which then moved off. That passenger then fell from the vehicle whilst in motion and suffered severe head injuries as a result.”
Tributes to the young mother were mounting today. Two bunches of flowers had been laid at the site of the accident on an off-licence car park.
Attached to one of the bouquets was a note which read: “Katie. So young, so sweet, so precious. Words will never ever say how much that you will be missed.”
A card, containing a poem written by a friend, had also been tied to a lamppost at the scene of the tragedy. The card, signed by Fizz, also contained a personal tribute which read: “Kate, you were like a sister to me. I can’t believe this has happened... I wish I could have done more to help you.”
The tribute continued: “I feel I’ve let you down. You have always been the one to help me through hard times. I don’t know how I will cope without you.
“I am so sorry that this had to happen, the only bit of comfort is knowing that you are in a better place, where no-one can hurt you anymore.”
Online tributes have been paid in a dedicated group set up on the social networking website Facebook.
Police are liaising with the coroner and are appealing for any witnesses or anyone with information about the incident to contact them at Newcastle-under-Lyme police station on 01785 234901 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.