Belfast Telegraph

Courageous pupils praised after Mournes hypothermia drama

Friends of schoolgirl who passed out on mountain complete expedition

By Laura Abernethy

A group of schoolchildren who got into difficulty in the Mourne Mountains completed their expedition yesterday morning as a pupil who fell victim to hypothermia recovered at home.

Staff and three groups of Year 13 pupils from The Royal School and St Patrick's Academy, both in Dungannon, were on a practice trek for their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award when a girl from the Royal fell ill and subsequently passed out.

In line with their training, the pupils quickly alerted emergency services at around 7.15pm.

The Mourne Mountain Rescue Team found the group on the western side of Slieve Beg a short time later.

They discovered one of the pupils was suffering from severe hypothermia and a number of others from mild hypothermia.

Royal School principal, Dr David Burnett, said seven students were able to walk down the mountain with a guide.

Another three, who were staying in the same tent as one of the casualties, stayed behind with the girl in the worst condition.

Once the girl started to recover, the three walked down the mountain with the help of the rescue team.

Dr Burnett said: "The staff and the pupils really worked together to handle the situation and get help from Mountain Rescue.

"The young people who were with the girl that took ill did a brilliant job. They looked after her and really supported her. We're very proud of how they handled it. They used all their training well."

The girl with severe hypothermia was taken off the mountain via stretcher and assessed by paramedics, who said she did not need hospital treatment.

Dr Burnett added: "They took the right precautions to make sure she was looked after. She is doing well now.

"She was stretchered down off the mountain and they took her to meet her mum. She's an awful lot better this morning and her mum is happy that everything turned out well and everyone looked after her."

The other members of her team spent the night in a nearby youth hostel but went back to the mountain yesterday morning and completed their expedition alongside the other two groups.

"The rest of the pupils were all fine and they were back out on track this morning," Dr Burnett said.

"There were two other groups who didn't have a clue what was going on because they were following different routes. They stayed out on the mountain as planned."

The Royal principal also praised all those involved for their rapid response to the crisis.

"It is one of those things that if the staff and the pupils hadn't reacted in the right way, it could have gone horribly wrong, but they did everything right," he said.

"This is a good news story in the end because everybody from both schools worked together and we're so proud.

"We also offer our thanks to mountain rescue for their professionalism and their expertise. They were able to handle the situation well and quickly helped everyone."

Because of the potential number of casualties involved, paramedics and a doctor were called out to assist the rescue team.

In total, 23 Mourne Mountain Rescue Team members responded to the incident.

A spokesman for the organisation praised the group for their efforts in keeping the girl safe.

"The group had been expeditioning in the Mournes when deteriorating conditions eventually took their toll," he said.

"Clearly, had it not been for the outstanding efforts of the young people in this group, this situation would have been much, much more serious."

The Mourne Mountain Rescue Team is a non-profit organisation and is made up of volunteers who are on call 24 hours every day of the year.

Donations can be made to its JustGiving page.

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