British mother and son skiing off-piste killed in avalanche in France

‘A family is decimated, and we are very sad in Saint-Gervais,’ local mayor says

Barney Davis
Friday 29 December 2023 15:08

Related video: Avalanche rolls down mountain in French Alps

A British mother and son have been killed in an avalanche as they skied off-piste on Mont Blanc.

The avalanche swept the two skiers to their deaths and left another injured in the French Alps on Thursday, according to local authorities.

It hit an off-piste area of the Saint-Gervais-les-Bains ski resort at an altitude of 2,300 meters (7,545 feet).

The 54-year-old mother and her 22-year-old son were skiing with three other relatives when they were swept away by the barrage of snow near the Mont Joly chair lift.

Prosecutors said the British mother and son were skiing off-piste with an instructor, who was also caught in the avalanche but was later rescued along with three other people.

The pair were found dead after a major five-hour search and rescue operation, involving around 20 rescuers, two dog teams and search helicopters.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are supporting the family of two British people who died in France and are in contact with the local authorities.”

The six skiers were travelling off-piste “in the Pirolettes corridor, near the Mont Joly chairlift and the Saint-Gervais ski area, when the avalanche went above them, possibly caused by two touring skiers who were located upstream”, according to the Bonneville public prosecutor’s office.

In a press release, they also confirmed “only the ski instructor was equipped with an avalanche victim detection device”, which enabled him to be pulled out and rescued from underneath the snow quickly.

A manslaughter investigation has been opened by state police in Chamonix, who will examine the cause of the avalanche.

Saint-Gervais mayor Jean-Marc Peillex said the weather conditions were too unstable for such risky outings, saying: “It rained, it snowed, it was warm.

“There are enough marked paths to ski on. It’s terrible what happened. A family is decimated, and we are very sad in Saint-Gervais.”

To the north, a 31-year-old hiker was found dead after falling on the slope of the Ecrins mountain range.

The hiker had veered away from hiking paths to look at mountain goats with a friend, local broadcaster France-Bleu cited rescuers as saying.

It came after at least five people were killed in a devastating avalanche southwest of Mont Blanc in the French Alps in April.

Two of the victims were local tour guides.

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