Shrewsbury: A town in mourning for the boys ‘so full of promise’

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Friends left photographs, letters and flowers in tribute to the boys
By Maisie Olah & Rebecca Woods
BBC News, in Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury is in mourning after four teenage friends were killed in a crash in north Wales. People in the town told the BBC it would be a long time before they would make sense of the tragedy.

The stage was set in The Square for the Christmas lights switch-on, an event that draws thousands for music, merriment and a night of festive shopping.

Instead, the only crowds gathering in Shrewsbury are those of students – solemn and silent, consumed with shock and grief over the deaths of their friends.

The switch-on is cancelled, the start of late-night shopping delayed for a week. Celebrating Christmas is the last thing on anyone’s mind here.

Dozens of students lit candles at Shrewsbury Abbey

Wilf Fitchett, Jevon Hirst, Harvey Owen and Hugo Morris were students at Shrewsbury College. As news of their deaths filtered through yesterday, the college was closed for a teacher training day.

Arriving back today, students laid flowers at the English Bridge campus. Messages of “love you” and “rest in peace” have been written on the stone stairs.

Molly Clarkson said she knew all the boys, meeting Jevon first at primary school.

“Wilf sits in my English class and today the teacher was crying,” she said.

“There is an undisputed sadness. They were all best friends.”

Jevon Hirst, Harvey Owen, Wilf Fitchett and Hugo Morris were all best friends, a fellow student said

At Shrewsbury Abbey, dozens of students have been going to light candles in the church.

Steve Swindon, church administrator, watched as nine boys stood in silence at the altar after laying flowers.

“What they are experiencing is hard to contemplate. It doesn’t matter if you have a faith, it is about humanity,” he said.

“We are here for everybody. Shrewsbury is a strong community.”

Friends of the boys bowed their heads in silence at the abbey

The market town is “one of those places where everyone knows everybody”, said Reverend Charlotte Gompertz, the vicar of Shelton and Oxon.

The news of the boys’ deaths is “utterly devastating”, she said.

“It’s impacting everyone, this is a tight-knit community where many of the young people have been at school together since they were four years old.

“It is going to take a long time for us to get our heads even vaguely around this tragedy.”

Messages to the four boys have been written on to the steps at the front of one of the college buildings

In a statement, Shrewsbury Colleges Group called it “truly heartbreaking” and “tragic” and said “our thoughts go out to those affected”.

The group said it would be working directly with affected students and staff and had “put in place a range of support measures for all our community”.

Meole Brace School in Shrewsbury, which the four teenagers previously attended, said in a statement earlier on Tuesday that all four boys were well-thought of and well-known by the school community.

‘Hard-working and humble’

Lots of people knew Harvey because he worked in the kitchen of popular local pizza restaurant Dough and Oil, his friends said.

It has closed for the day as a mark of respect.

“Harvey, our boy,” the restaurant team wrote on its Instagram page, alongside a picture of him in his work uniform, a bowl of pasta in his hand, taken just two weeks ago.

“Easy going, funny, gentle, bright, hard-working and humble – we all had a soft spot for Harvey,” it went on.

Dough and Oil, where Harvey worked, was closed in respect

He had started working there two years ago on the pot wash, and had dreams of opening his own bakery.

“Our love, thoughts and condolences go out to Harvey’s family and to those of his friends, their lives so full of promise cut so tragically short,” the post added.

Shrewsbury’s town clerk, Helen Ball, described the mood in the town as very subdued as she explained the reasoning behind cancelling Wednesday evening’s events.

The town’s lights will be “quietly” switched on over the next few days instead, she said.

When the time is right, the town council will help the college commemorate the lives of the four friends, Ms Ball added.

Up the road from Dough and Oil, Shane Swannick has put four candles in the window of Shropshire Cycle Hub.

Four candles for four boys have been lit at Shropshire Cycle Hub

“As a parent of teenagers, I really feel it,” he said.

“My son, he’s 19 now and he goes to Snowdonia with his mates mountain-biking all the time.

“I used to – as lads you go with your mates, that’s what you do.

“But it can end, just like that.”

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