Four killed by avalanche in French Alps

Jan. 12, 2011 at 5:46 PM

VAL D'ISERE, France, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Four skiers killed by an avalanche in Val d'Isere in the French Alps were away from marked trails working with an experienced guide, police said.

One man hit by the massive slide Tuesday was rescued, The Daily Telegraph reported. Didier Moreau, an instructor with Top Ski school, and his wife watched their charges ski about 1,500 feet down the slope before the avalanche thundered down, a source told the newspaper.

"Didier could only watch helplessly as the avalanche picked up speed, and then buried his pupils," the source said. "He called the emergency services immediately using a long-range radio, and both he and his wife started trying to dig the victims out of the snow."

One of the dead was identified as James Whalley, 32, a pilot with easyJet, a budget British airline operating out of Gatwick Airport. Police told the Telegraph the others were a Swedish man and a French couple from Lyon.

A spokesman for mountain rescue in the area said the cause of the avalanche is unknown. But he said it is possible having a group of seven skiers in the area, where fresh snow fell overnight, might have triggered it, while a single person might have been safe.

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