Kiwi skier killed in avalanche ‘triggered by French police’

A skier from New Zealand was killed on the slopes of Mont Blanc on Monday in an avalanche that reports say could have been caused by French mountain police.

Kiwi skier killed in avalanche 'triggered by French police'
File photo: AFP

The skier was killed on the Mont Blanc range in south eastern France on Monday morning around 11.30am.

He was killed by an avalanche.

French police have opened an investigation to determine what occurred high up in the slopes of the famous mountain, but reports from French media suggest specialist mountain rescue military police may have provoked the avalanche during a training exercise.

Two gendarmes from the specialist High Mountain unit were described as “shocked and shaken” after the incident, and are due to be questioned over what happened.

According to reports in Metronews the gendarmes were training in the area and were swept away when an avalanche was triggered.

They survived unhurt, but later found the body of the New Zealand skier in the deep snow.

“The victim was in the ascent phase, probably on skies,” said Patrice Guigon the prosecutor of Bonneville.

The investigation will be handled by the local gendarmerie in Chambery.

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Dad’s ‘miracle escape’ after being buried by avalanche in French Alps

A man out walking with his family in the French Alps has made a miraculous escape from an avalanche after spending more than two and a half hours trapped under snow, rescuers said.

Dad's 'miracle escape' after being buried by avalanche in French Alps
Ski lifts in France are closed, but visitors and locals are free to enjoy other outdoor sports. Photo: AFP

The 50-year-old father was snowshoeing near the high-altitude Val d'Isere ski resort with his wife and two children on Thursday without anti-avalanche safety equipment.

“Thank to the mobilisation of nearly 100 people… the man was found alive after two hours and 40 minutes of searching,” the police for the local Savoie département announced on Twitter.

Because of the depth of the snow, rescue dogs were unable to detect a trace, but the man was eventually dug out by a specialised mountain police team which used a Wolfhound device to locate his mobile phone under the ice.

“I think it's a miracle,” Alexandre Grether from the PGHM rescue team told the France 3 local news channel, adding that the man was found 2.5 metres (eight feet) below the surface.

The chances of survival after more than 20 minutes in an avalanche are usually slim.

“He was protected by a tree, that's what prevented him from being crushed by all the ice that slid down. The snow had surrounded him, but he had a pocket of air,” he explained.

The victim is expected to make a full recovery after suffering a fracture to his hip.

The avalanche risk on Thursday was at its maximum – five on a scale of five – and rescuers urge people to always check the snow conditions before venturing out.

READ ALSO 'Whole season a write-off' – what next for France's ski resorts?

Ski lifts in the Alps, which have seen some of their heaviest snowfalls in years in January, are currently closed because of restrictions imposed by the government to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Visitors and locals are free to enjoy hiking, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing, but occupancy levels in hotels and chalets are way down and business owners and seasonal staff face serious hardships.

The government has promised an economic support package for the sector.