Children lost in Peak District had no maps

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The Independent Online

Leaders of a children's hillwalking group rejected criticism yesterday after the group was stranded for seven hours on moorland. Some rescuers had claimed the supervisors had no maps and did not know to how to use their compass.

Leaders of a children's hillwalking group rejected criticism yesterday after the group was stranded for seven hours on moorland. Some rescuers had claimed the supervisors had no maps and did not know to how to use their compass.

The 16 boys, aged 11 and 12, are thought to be from the Jewish community in Salford, Greater Manchester. But Alby Copeland, father of one leader, yesterday denied the youngsters were in danger. He said his 20-year-old son, Rafi, had taken parties on the same trip twice a year for two years and had map, compass, and spare emergency supplies.

He said: "Both leaders knew how to deal with the situation and how to calm the youngsters. When they got high enough in the hills to use the mobile phones they did, and they made the whole experience an adventure for the children. They sang songs and psalms together. The kids were excited.

"The emergency services, particularly the mountain rescue team, were brilliant. We knew exactly what was going on the whole time. The police said it would take time to get the youngsters off the hills, but they were not unduly worried as it was quite a warm night."

He said his son got lost after missing the track then wrongly pinpointing their position. "They thought they were somewhere they weren't, and once you make that mistake you're working from the wrong basis," he said. "They decided there was no option but to call for help because of their responsibilities to the younger children."

The boys, on a week's holiday for a religious festival, were wearing only jeans, anoraks and training shoes when they left Birchen Clough, near Hope, Derbyshire, after lunch on Wednesday. Jacob Eckstein, whose son Reuben, 11, was in the party, was among a group of parents dissuaded from joining the search. "The boys were not equipped for being out in the wild at night," he said. "I am wondering whether the leaders were properly qualified to cope."

The lost boys, huddled in a crosswind in an exposed spot high in a valley, eventually helped searchers by using the mobile phone to say how close the rescue helicopter sounded.

Phil Shaw, a volunteer with the Glossop mountain rescue service, Derbyshire, said: "They were ill-equipped, with no maps. One of the two party leaders had a compass around his neck, but I don't know if he knew how to use it."

The scare came a week after two teenage girls were swept away while "river walking" near Settle, North Yorkshire. That tragedy prompted David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, to advise schools with half-term adventure holidays booked next week to ensure group leaders had fully checked the risks and cancel if they had concerns.

The North Yorkshire coroner yesterday adjourned an inquest for further inquiries on one victim, 14-year-old Rochelle Cauvet, of Leeds. He found she died from drowning.

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