Police killed after 1,000m fall on Mont Blanc

A police training exercise on Mont Blanc ended in tragedy this week when three climbers from the French gendarmerie plunged 1,000 metres to their deaths. It is believed the officers fell after their climbing rope became detached.

Police killed after 1,000m fall on Mont Blanc
File photo of climbers on the Aiguille du Midi, Mont Blanc. Photo: Christian Bortes

The three officers from the French gendarmerie were crossing the Mont Blanc Massif from the Aiguille du Midi to the Aiguille du Plan as part of a training exercise before they took up their posts at the police ski instruction center in Chamonix.

The three, aged 29, 33 and 44, two of whom were fathers, left on Tuesday morning when the failed to report back at the end of the day fears began to mount over their wellbeing.

At around 8pm a search and rescue operation was launched but a shortwhile later, at around 9.30pm, two bodies were discovered at the foot of the Aiguille du Midi.Police are still searching for the third body.

According to the initial investigation it appears the rope they were using to climb the mountain became detached resulting in the men falling around 1,000 metres.

“It was an absolute vertical drop. The officers had no chance,” Pierre-Henri Brandet a spokesman for the Interior Ministry told Europe1 radio.

Colonel François Bertrand group commander for the Haute Savoie department was at a loss to explain how the accident happened.

“It was just basic training. The conditions were generally good, there was no particular risk. Other gendarmes had done the same route on the same day,” he said.

France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls has sent his condolences to the families of the three men as well as to the officers' brigade.

It is the second time in a matter of months the gendarmerie has been hit by tragedy in the French Alps after two mountaineers died earlier this year.

Earlier this year a father and son from Britain were killed on Mont Blanc when they fell near the Bossons glacier.

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Mountaineer dies on Europe’s Mont Blanc despite rescue attempts

A French mountaineer died close to the summit of Mont Blanc on Friday after rescuers made several attempts to get to him in a violent storm.

Mountaineer dies on Europe's Mont Blanc despite rescue attempts
A picture taken from a helicopter on August 7th, 2020 shows the Planpincieux glacier of the Grandes Jorasses, on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif, with the Courmayeur village in the background, Val Ferret, northwestern Italy.  Andrea BERNARDI / AFP

The man, in his forties, was climbing Europe’s highest peak when he lost his way and got stuck at 4,800 metres (15,700 feet), assailed by “the storm, the wind, the cold,” rescuer André-Vianney Espinasse told AFP.

He called for help on Thursday evening.

Several helicopters attempted to rescue him but couldn’t get to him due to the weather, Espinasse said.

As a result, one helicopter dropped rescuers off lower down, at 3,200 metres, forcing them to climb the rest of the way at night.

At two in the morning, after reaching a refuge and waiting for the weather to ease, they climbed further into heavy winds.

They found the man some two hours later, suffering from severe hypothermia.

But “at 5.30, in awful winds, the mountaineer suffered a cardiac arrest,” said Espinasse.

A fresh attempt by a helicopter to lift the victim off the mountain failed once again due to the high winds.

The rescuers then decided to leave the body and get out of “this extremely dangerous area”.

A rescue helicopter from neighbouring Italy eventually managed to lift the body off the mountain.

“Going solo on high mountains should really be avoided due to all the dangers involved,” Espinasse said.

Mont Blanc is between the regions of Aosta Valley in Italy and Savoie and Haute-Savoie in France