• 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
France's top court suspends burqini ban
Photo: bellmon1/Flickr

France's highest administrative court has suspended a town's ban on wearing the full-body burqini swimsuit.

Milk price raised, but French farmers still unhappy
The sign on the tractor reads 'We're dying', as farmers blocked Lactalis dairy headquarters. Photo: AFP

Milk prices have been raised by France's biggest dairy group to placate farmers, but unions say their demands have not been met.

Burqini bans 'dividing France's Muslim women'
Photo: AFP

The burqini bans have divided France, but they have also left Muslim women in France in two groups, argues a professor who has spent years studying the impact of the burqa.

Pizza-delivery drones could be on their way to France
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's your pizza. Photo: AFP

No more need to deal with grumpy French waiters...

Heatwave drags on as France faces red-hot weekend
Photo: AFP

France will see searing temperatures on Friday and Saturday, as the heatwave warnings have been extended (once again).

Nice: The French capital of burqini fines
The beach in the Riviera city of Nice. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

It's one of only two of the 30 towns with a burqini ban in place to have actually given out any fines.

How to make France's famed Île Flottante dessert
Photo: Paul Oatway

France-based food blogger Laura Tobin shares her recipe for this delicious French dessert.

France's top court set to rule on burqini ban
Photo: bellmon1/Flickr

France's highest administrative court will decide this afternoon whether to overturn the burqini ban.

Corsica bushfire leaves 500 hectares scorched
Photos: AFP

A massive fire left 500 hectares of bushland in Corsica ravaged.

View from the rue
What do Parisians think of France's burqini bans?
Photo: AFP

With 64 percent of the French against burqinis at the beach, what do the Parisians think?

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Education
French schools to ramp up security with 'mock attacks'
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Features
Where to go in France to find the best ice cream
National
Majority in France against burqinis on beaches
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Society
Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
Society
Five tips for surviving an internship in France
Politics
Déja vu? Familiar faces in France's presidential race
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Meet the man paying off burqini fines in France
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Eight tips on buying wine in a French supermarket
Society
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
National
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
2,751
jobs available