Three die in French Alps avalanche

An avalanche that struck a school group skiing in the Alps yesterday afternoon killed two French high school students and a Ukrainian skier.

The avalanche in the Deux Alpes resort hit 10 students from the Saint Exupery school in Lyon and their teacher.

At least two other members of the group were found in a state of cardiac arrest and the teacher was found with multiple injuries. They were transferred to a hospital in Grenoble.

No information on the number of missing was available last night, but 60 rescue workers had been mobilised in a search-and-rescue operation with sniffer dogs and a helicopter.

The prefect of the Isere region told BFM-TV the ski trail was so risky it had been closed since the “beginning of the [ski] season” in December.

Jean-Paul Bonnetain said the group leader “had taken the initiative” to lead the school group onto this piste.

He said the trail “was really of a technical level”, and not suitable for beginners or students aged between 16 and 17.

French police commander Bertrand Host told BFM there had been an avalanche warning in the area before the snow slide.

The regional Dauphine Libere newspaper reported four students were found in cardiac arrest and the teacher was unconscious.

Venosc mayor Pierre Balme told the paper the avalanche happened on a closed ski run.

French president François Hollande sent his condolences to those close to the victims. In a statement last night, he said the French education minister was on his way to Lyon to “support the school community and the families”.

Local councillor Gilles Strappazzon told BFM the avalanche happened after several groups of skiers dislodged a large snow slab.

The area had been closed off prior to the accident amid high avalanche warnings.

There had been little snow in the Alps until just after the New Year, so January’s steady snow was fresh and possibly less stable.


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