Teacher who led Aberfan pupils to safety dies, aged 75

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Media caption,

Hettie Williams was one of four surviving teachers

The schoolteacher who led her young pupils to safety after the 1966 Aberfan disaster has died, aged 75.

Hettie Williams was teaching at Pantglas Junior School when a coal tip slid down the mountainside, engulfing the village.

The disaster killed 144 people, including 116 children.

Hundreds came to pay their respects to the teacher at her funeral on Thursday - including some of the pupils whose lives she saved that day.

On the morning of 21 October 1966, Hettie Williams - then known as Miss Taylor - was teaching her first-year class when the colliery waste began to slide down the hillside above the village.

The avalanche killed 109 children at the school, along with five teachers.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
The landslide engulfed Pantglas Junior School, where Hettie Williams was teaching a class of first year pupils

The 23-year-old schoolteacher led her pupils to safety as the school was engulfed.

Hettie Williams died in early August and her funeral was held at St David's Church in Rhymney on Thursday.

Speaking to BBC Wales on the 50th anniversary of the disaster in 2016, she described how she could "still see the children in the classroom" at the spot where the junior school once stood.

Media caption,

Survivors recalled hearing the roar of the landslide that would kill 116 children

"They were such a happy group of children: they were just adorable," she said.

"You can think back to when it was a lovely place."

After the disaster she helped set up a school, along with the three other surviving teachers, at the local community centre for the children who had survived the tragedy.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
In the Aberfan memorial garden and cemetery, graves remember the 144 people who died in the disaster

A long teaching career continued at schools including Phillipstown, Abertysswg and Bargoed, in Caerphilly county.

There were also representatives of the cancer charity Helping Hands, which she had supported for many years.

Image caption,
Hettie Williams was a teacher at Pantglas Junior School in Aberfan

The Merthyr and Rhymney MP Gerald Jones, who attended the funeral, was taught by Hettie Williams at Phillipstown Primary School in New Tredegar.

David Davies, chairman of the Aberfan Memorial Charity, added: "The people of Aberfan will never forget our dear Hettie."