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Shock and sorrow in Welsh village where teenagers died

There was a sense of shock and sorrow in Garreg, a quiet village within Snowdonia (Eryri) as the news that the Shrewsbury teenagers’ car had been found and four bodies recovered, two days after it was last seen.

Jevon Hirst, Harvey Owen, Wilf Henderson and Hugo Morris, aged between 16 and 18, were believed to have been on a camping trip in the area.

“There’s disbelief here. Our thoughts are with the family,” said local Plaid Cymru councillor June Jones. “I was hoping that they’d gone out camping wild and had no mobile signal. It’s so sad.”

A police cordon was in place on a meandering stretch of the A4085 between Garreg and the larger village of Beddgelert. The morning began with air and land ambulances racing to the scene. As the day wore on, a succession of police cars and investigation vehicles arrived.

Jones said: “Many people must have passed close by to where they found the car over the past few days. It’s so sad.”

Though it was sunny on Tuesday, the weather in the days before had been grim. “It has been extremely wet and the rivers have been extremely high,” Jones said. “It is bad weather to be travelling in, especially when you don’t know the roads.”

Ann Hodgkins, who lives close to where the teenagers’ silver Ford Fiesta was found, said at first she assumed someone had got lost in the hills when she woke at 5am on Tuesday to the clatter of a helicopter circling overhead. “You get used to that here. People do get lost in the hills. But I thought, it’s not too cold, whoever it is, I expect they’ll be all right.”

Hodgkins went to Beddgelert, where she volunteers in the local school. “I heard that four young men were missing but didn’t link them at first to the helicopter. But when I came back here and the road was closed, I thought: ‘Oh dear.’ It’s so sad. So young.

“The roads are narrow down there and there are deep ditches at the side. I guess they may have lost control and gone off the road.”

A fire engine near the scene. Photograph: Andrew Price/View Finder/NY Today News

During the day police were working on a stretch where the road goes through a wood and in a nearby field and also close to a small bridge between the A4085 and a farm.

The area is hugely popular destinations for hikers, climbers and mountain bikers. Overlooking Garreg is the peak of Cnicht, part of the Moelwynion mountain range, and known as the “Matterhorn of Wales” because of its striking profile when viewed from the coast.

“I wonder if they were going to climb that?” said Bill Brewer, a builder who paused on his way past to ask what was going on. “But lots of people come here from the Midlands and the north-west of England. It’s a good place for a bit of adventure and a taste of freedom.”

At 3.30pm a low-loader brought a silver VW Polo out from a police cordon near where the teenagers’ car was found. It appeared undamaged and it is not known whether it was connected to the incident. At 4pm another low-loader went in, possibly to pick up the Ford Fiesta.

Otherwise, life went on as normal. Groups of mountain bikers passed through. In the late afternoon a coach dropped girls from a local school – not much younger than the Shrewsbury teenagers – at the cordon and police allowed them through to walk home. The local bus service, the Sherpa’r Wyddfa (Snowdon Rambler) had to make winding diversions.

On the face of it, the case has some similarities with the tragedy in Cardiff in the summer when it took police up to 46 hours to find five young people in the wreckage of a car crash that left three of them dead and two seriously injured.

North Wales police have not yet provided a timeline on when they heard the Shrewsbury teenagers were missing and what action they took.

The temperature in this corner of north Wales has hovered around 10C over the past few days. “You just hoped they weren’t trapped,” said Ryan Brookes, a van driver. “It doesn’t bear thinking about. The poor lads.”

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