• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
French Alps Avalanche
Alps avalanche: Why was school party on closed piste?
Photo: AFP

Alps avalanche: Why was school party on closed piste?

The Local/AFP · 14 Jan 2016, 17:26

Published: 14 Jan 2016 17:26 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Jan 2016 17:26 GMT+01:00

The avalanche at the Deux Alpes resort on Wednesday claimed the lives of two teenage pupils and a Ukrainian man, who is understood to have been skiing separate from the school group.
 
The snow engulfed 19 pupils in all and three staff members from the Lycée Saint-Exupéry de Lyon. Three pupils have been left in a serious condition. 
 
The others were saved after a mammoth rescue effort involving helicopters and sniffer dogs.
 
But among the tributes to the victims, others have been left in disbelief as further details of the tragedy emerge.  Many are asking questions about the actions of the teacher, who was left unconscious in the snow-slide.
 
Reports say that it was his idea to take the closed sky run. On Thursday afternoon the teacher was formally placed in police custody on suspicion of causing multiple manslaughter. 
 
Local mayor Stephane Sauvebois said "foolhardy risks were taken" when the group ventured onto the closed piste   
 
"How can you think of taking children, following periods of heavy snowfall, onto a piste which was closed?" French Minister for Youth and Sports Patrick Kanner told reporters.
 
"A judicial inquiry will say why the teacher who was himself injured took (the group) onto a piste which was not open," he added.
 
It's emerged that the piste has been closed to the public since the start of the ski season and representatives of those in charge of Deux Alpes have insisted that the piste was definitely closed off with "netting" in place.
 
The local prosecutor Jean-Paul Bonnetain said it would have been impossible for the group to have taken the slope by mistake.
 
"No one could say they didn't know it was closed," Bonnetain said.
 
The video below shows search teams looking for possible survivors of the avalanche.
 
 
The risk of avalanches in Alps has increased after heavy snow falls in recent days were followed by strong winds. That has led to unstable formations of snow high up in the mountains.
 
Authorities and police have issued multiple warnings in recent days.
 
A student lights a candle at the Lyon high school. Photo: AFP
 
Dominique Letang of the National Association for the Study of Snow and Avalanches said it was "infuriating" that anyone was skiing on the slope in the first place.
 
"What is surprising is the number of people involved, even though we keep on saying that they must take it one at a time when the snow cover is unstable," he said.
 
"There is a good chance that it was the skiers themselves that triggered the avalanche".
 
He added that the avalanche risk on the black slope - the highest difficulty rating in France - was three on a scale of five.
 
One skier who descended the piste before the group of school children said he saw the signs warning that it was closed but decided to take it anyway.
 
"You could feel that the snow had just fallen and it hadn't had the time to pack down. It wasn't solid," the skier called Ryan told BFM TV.
 
(Rescue teams gather for search and rescue operations on a piste at the avalanche site. Photo: AFP)
 
Investigators believe the avalanche was triggered either by noise or it was simply spontaneous after the heavy snow and high winds left unstable snow slabs high up above the slopes.
Story continues below…
 
Early reports suggested the snow-slide began at an altitude of 2,800 metres while the ski party was 400 metres below.
 
The avalanche was around 20 metres wide and 300 metres long, according to authorities. 
 
"It's typical of a slab of snow formed by strong winds in recent days," said Letang from the National Association for the Study of Snow and Avalanches
 
The dangers of straying from open ski slopes in the French Alps have made headlines twice this year, after four skiers died in separate avalanches after going off piste.
 
Authorities in the Alps have called on those practicing winter sports to take the necessary precautions so as not to put their lives in danger.
 
Following Wednesday's tragic accident, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve released a statement repeating his appeal from earlier in the month for people in the area to "exercise the utmost caution" and to follow the instructions of the local authorities.
 
The avalanche occurred at the ski resort Les Deux Alpes, in Isère. Photo: Google Maps
 

The Local/AFP (news.france@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Hollande says Brexit won't change Channel migrant deal
The Calais Jungle. Photo: AFP

President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday that the Brexit vote won't change border agreements between France and Britain.

Frenchman sentenced to jail time for burying dog alive
Photo: Pedro Dinis/Facebook

A man who buried his disabled dog alive, sparking social media fury in France, has been handed a jail sentence.

Le Thought du Jour
Post-Brexit: Could it benefit France to see the UK suffer?
Will Hollande benefit from the mess left behind by Cameron. Photo: AFP

The referendum result may have boosted Marine Le Pen and the growing anti-EU movement in France, but what has happened since may have taken the wind out their sails.

France 'probes new death threats' against Charlie Hebdo

A special French police unit has launched investigations after Charlie Hebdo magazine was subject to new death threats, according to reports in France.

Paris commuters face summer of transport headaches
Photo: AFP

Here are the train lines to avoid this summer if you're in Paris.

What's on in France: Eleven great things to do in July
Check out Provence's Lavender festivals in July. Photo: Ming-Yen Hsu/Flickr

We reckon July is by far the best month to be in France. Here's why.

Brexit
France wants Paris to profit from London's losses
Photo: AFP

Paris must take London's place as Europe's financial powerhouse once Brexit happens, a French minister says.

French foie gras industry warns of Christmas shortages
Photo: AFP

The foie gras industry in France is struggling to digest the consequences of the bird flu scare in its heartland.

Paris to honour Ireland's two sets of 'wonderful' fans
Photo: AFP

Fans of Ireland's "Boys in Green" and Northern Ireland's Green and White Army are to be given a special medal for bringing some joy to Euro 2016.

€5 to the coast? Ouibus rolls out new summer lines
Photo: Ouibus

Fancy heading to the coast for just €5 this summer?

Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
New app aims to rid Paris pavements of dog poo
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
No more plastic bags! See what changes in France from July 2016
National
Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
How Brexit could now scupper that dream move to France
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Brexit limbo: What happens next for Brits in France?
Gallery
Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French
Analysis & Opinion
Brexit: Life for Brits in France 'will get more complicated'
Culture
20 English words that 'should be banished' from French
National
Best Briehaviour: A guide to French cheese etiquette
Features
And the best city in France for expats to live in is...?
Society
Forget bikes, Paris is set to roll out scooter rentals
National
'We fear for our safety': French police feel the strain
Lifestyle
Why Rennes (and not Paris) is the best city in France for expats to live
National
Why are the French losing appetite for baguettes?
Lifestyle
Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
Lifestyle
Is working life better in London or Paris?
National
Dear Americans: Please come to Paris
National
It's official (kind of): French work fewest hours in EU
And the best football fans of Euro 2016 in France are?
National
Paris has wettest spring in 100 years and it's hitting morale
Police murders remind France of complexity of terror threat
National
IN PICTURES: Labour law protests in Paris turn ugly
National
Double murder just latest jihadist attack on French police and soldiers
2,762
jobs available