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Schoolchildren rescued from Brecon Beacons were never missing, says headmaster

A group of schoolchildren rescued from the Brecon Beacons during a Duke of Edinburgh exercise were never missing, their headmaster has said.

Police and mountain rescue teams said a major search operation was launched after 26 teenagers disappeared in low cloud and torrential rain.

But Jonathan Gillespie, headmaster at St Albans School, in Hertfordshire, said their location was known but they needed help after two of the group were taken ill.

"At no stage have any of them been unaccounted for or missing," he said.

Three mountain rescue teams, police and ambulance crews were sent to the area in south Wales at around 1pm on Wednesday afternoon after the alarm was raised when a group was said to have got lost in clouds.

Emergency services said the teenagers' bid to find their way back on their own was hampered by torrential rain, strong wind and virtually no mobile phone reception in the remote 10 hectare area of Llyn Y Fan Fach, near Abercraf.

Twelve rescuers from Western Beacons, Central Beacons and Brecon mountain rescue teams took part in the search as well as police, and all pupils were found safe and well.

Mr Gillespie said he was "grateful" to the emergency services for their help.

He said 47 Year 11 pupils were on the second day of a three-day silver Duke of Edinburgh award expedition when two pupils began to feel unwell.

They were part of a small group of seven pupils who correctly followed their training procedures and called for help, he added.

The school was contacted and a member of staff was able to give police the six digit grid reference for the pupils' location.

He said two members of staff reached the group within 90 minutes and the mountain rescue team led them off the hill.

"They were fit enough to walk off the hill," he said, adding that the pupils were given a precautionary medical check but were fine.

Mr Gillespie added: "I'm very proud of my staff and pupils and how they responded to it and grateful to the emergency services."

He said several of the groups were still on track to complete the expedition and all pupils were expected to return to the school on Thursday.

Andrew Evans, of Western Beacons Mountain Search and Rescue team, said this type of incident was not uncommon with groups doing a Duke of Edinburgh award.

"We located them and brought them all safely back," he added.

"There were 26 of them in total and they are from the St Albans area. They have been taken to the nearby town of Ystradgynlais where they were staying.

"They've all been checked out by medics as precaution and we've been assured that they are all safe and okay."

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesman said: "We are pleased to confirm that following the search and rescue operation on the Brecon Beacons this afternoon, all 26 members of the party involved have been accounted for.

"It is also very pleasing that no one was injured, but as a precaution they were taken to hospital to be checked.

"The Mountain Rescue Team and the Coastguards helicopter crew are to be thanked for this successful search and rescue operation."

St Albans is a £17,238-a-year private day school for boys aged 11 to 18 and girls aged 16 to 18, according to its website.

Physicist Stephen Hawking and Pope Adrian IV are among the notable alumni.

The school, which has around 830 pupils and 100 staff, was founded in 948 and is one of the oldest schools in the world.

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