How the search for the missing Snowdonia boys unfolded

Jevon Hirst, Wilf Henderson, Harvey Owen and Hugo Morris were found in their car submerged in a river
(Clockwise from top left) Jevon Hirst, Wilf Henderson, Harvey Owen and Hugo Morris were found in their car submerged in a river

On Tuesday morning, desperate and frantic with worry, the parents of the four teenage boys who had disappeared on a camping weekend in Snowdonia, sped across Wales to help with the search.

Fearing the worst after a sleepless night, they clung to the hope their children would be discovered holed up in a tent somewhere, shivering on a mountainside.

They would be a bit worse for wear, a bit wet perhaps, a bit embarrassed, but alive.

Instead, at 10am, almost 19 hours from when they were first reported missing at 3.10pm on Monday, a car was discovered. A silver Ford Fiesta was found submerged in the ice-cold waters of a river just outside the remote village of Garreg.

Inside were the bodies of the four boys.

When the news of the missing teenagers broke on Tuesday morning, the mother of Harvey Owen, 18, one of the victims, spoke to reporters as she drove towards Snowdonia National Park.

A police road block in Garreg Ilanfrothen on the A4085, approximately 3/4 of a mile from the crash scene
A police road block in Garreg Ilanfrothen on the A4085, approximately 3/4 of a mile from the crash scene - Rob Formstone

Crystal Owen, who runs her own cupcake shop, spoke to the BBC, desperately trying to convince herself that the nightmare would end and she would be hugging her 18-year-old son and telling him how stupid he had been before the day was over.

“They are all sensitive, intelligent lads and we are just hoping they parked up, got lost and are OK,” she said.

On Tuesday, The mother of Jevon Hirst, just 16, posted a message on Facebook pleading with friends to share a missing person’s appeal put out by North Wales Police.

“If anyone knows anything or can think of anything that may help find the boys please contact the police. We are desperate for any news.”

The boys had travelled to Harlech, a Welsh coastal town on the outskirts of Snowdonia on Saturday night and planned to camp in the national park on Sunday night before returning home on Monday morning.

Harvey, Jevon and their friends, Hugo Morris and Wilf Henderson, both 17, all attended the same secondary school, Meole Brace, and had gone on to study together at nearby Shrewsbury College.

They were not experienced campers and it is believed they took with them just a basic tent, sleeping bag and provisions for one night.

After making it safely to the village of Harlech on Saturday night, they were seen driving towards the mountains on Sunday morning.

Shortly after, around lunchtime, the boys logged onto their phones for the final time.

Whether they made it to their campsite and stayed overnight on Sunday, or crashed before they even got there, is still unclear.

At 3.10pm on Monday, their parents, growing more frantic with every second, contacted police and an “extensive” search and rescue operation was launched.

Coastguard teams scoured the beaches while mountain rescue teams began searching remote car parks hoping to find the boy’s Ford Fiesta.

Residents in the small town of Garreg, the nearest settlement to where the bodies were found, said they were woken up at 5am by the sounds of helicopters overhead and searchlights over the fields.

Emyr Owen, who lives near the crash site, said that there had been “atrocious” weather in recent days.

Local councillor June Jones said that residents had been desperately hoping the boys had simply gone camping and were trapped somewhere with no phone signal.

She added: “It has been extremely wet and the rivers have been extremely high over the last few days. Obviously, it is November, the weather is bad.

“It is bad weather to be travelling in, especially with somebody who doesn’t know the roads very well’, she said.

At 10am on Tuesday, North Wales Police announced they had discovered the boys’ car near Garreg and set up a cordon. “Updates will follow”, a police spokesman said.

A large haulage truck was allowed into the cordon at around 4pm, just as the light was starting to disappear.

A van with the phrase “collision forensics” on the side had earlier been seen entering the area, along with another haulage vehicle that left the cordon empty.

By this time the social media accounts of the boys’ friends and families had gone quiet and police were not responding to calls from the media.

Superintendent Owain Llewelyn from North Wales Police St Asaph Dhq gives an update to the press
Superintendent Owain Llewelyn from North Wales Police St Asaph Dhq gives an update to the press - Ian Cooper/PA Wire

At 4.30pm, Supt Owain Llewelyn read out a brief statement.

“It is believed that [the boys] travelled to Harlech on Saturday 18th with plans to camp in the Eyri area on Sunday.

“A large search was undertaken overnight and that continued into this morning. Shortly after 10am, a member of the public contacted us reporting a vehicle having left the road.

“Police officers attended and located a Ford Fiesta vehicle upside down partially submerged in water.

“Tragically the bodies of four young males were recovered from within the vehicle. The families of the missing men have been informed. Our thoughts are with them at this desperate time.”

Wilf Henderson’s girlfriend, Maddi Corfield, posted a tribute to her boyfriend on social media following the announcement.

“I love you so much baby. I’m going to miss you forever,.” she said.

The parents of the boys, who had clung to hope ever since their children failed to return home on Monday, were silent.

The bodies are yet to be formally identified and an investigation into the crash is ongoing, police said.

Liz Saville Roberts, the local MP and Mabon ap Gwynfor, a Welsh Senedd member, paid tribute to the emergency services and a member of the public who discovered the car.

They added: “No words can sufficiently reflect the sorrow that this news brings to our whole community”.

Cllr Jones, who had been at the scene of the crash for most of the day, said the outcome was “worse than any of us thought”.

“Nobody expected this, it’s an incredibly sad time, inconsolable for the families. I can’t frankly put myself in their place.”

She added: “I think people will be shocked for a long time. People want answers. Why? What happened there? What happened?”

When asked about the length of time that it took to find the boys, she said: “We don’t have a good mobile signal, that is one thing that we are very aware of, this valley here there is no mobile signal, so I think most of us assumed, ‘oh they’re out of signal, they’ve gone camping, they’re having fun’.”

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