Scotland avalanche kills 4, seriously hurts another


A Sea King helicopter from HMS Gannet fly though the Hidden Valley in Glen Coe while on patrol March 24, 2007 in Ayr, Scotland.The crew are based at Prestwick airport in Southwest Scotland, and provide a 24-hour military and civilian search and rescue service across a large area of Scotland.


Jeff J Mitchell

Four people are dead and another seriously hurt after an avalanche today in the Scottish Highlands.

The avalanche occurred near Glencoe, about 130 miles northwest of Edinburgh, just before 2 p.m. local time. One man escaped harm.

Another group of climbers alerted emergency crews when they found one of the victims in the snow, the Guardian reported.

"The first call to police was from two other people who had been on the mountain, they found someone lying next to where they were climbing," rescue coordinator John Grieve told the Guardian.

"So, the assumption was that it was just one casualty, but it became clear that there were others missing when they heard from the man who is safe."

BBC cited police as naming three of those killed: Una Rachel Finnegan, 25, from Ireland, Briton Tom Chesters, 28, and 24-year-old Christopher Bell, from Blackburn.

BBC reported that six climbers were caught in the avalanche on Bidean Nam Bian mountain.

The three men and three women were swept down the mountain by the falling snow.

One of the women is in serious condition in hospital, while one of the men was left unscathed.

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The popular mountain for climbers reaches an elevation of about 3,000 feet, The Daily Mail said.

Rescuers, with search dogs, found the victims in about 3 feet of snow.

The avalanche hit as the climbers began a descent of a ridge called the Church Door Buttress below the summit, according to The Daily Mail.

"It is always difficult in these circumstances, but I think the advice we would give to people is to check the weather and avalanche forecasts before setting off, and to assess the risks," Mountaineering Council of Scotland spokesman David Gibson told the newspaper. "This was a significant tragedy."

Avalanches are extremely rare in Britain.

Mark Diggins, co-ordinator of the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, warned of how unpredictable avalanches can be despite little snowfall in the mountains.

"An avalanche is possible to be triggered by a single person," said Diggins, according to Sky News.

"At the moment it doesn't look like there's much snow, it is very localized. You're really getting into areas which are 800 meters up because the wind packs the snow to make it hard."