UK & World News
Avalanche: Two More British Victims Named
Two more Britons killed in an avalanche in the French Alps have been named by the Foreign Office as survivors have spoken to journalists of the tragedy.
John Taylor and Steve Barber were from the village of Upper Poppleton, York, and were raising money for nearby St Leonard's Hospice with their attempt to reach the summit of Mont Blanc.
Janet Morley, fundraising manager at St Leonard's Hospice, said Mr Barber had informed them in May of their plan to raise cash for charity.
"We are devastated to hear of Steve's death and the deaths of John Taylor and Roger Payne, as well as the other victims. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends today," she told Sky News.
"As far as we are aware, he had no direct link with the hospice, so we were very pleased to hear that he recognised the important part the hospice plays in York and the surrounding area."
Roger Payne, the third Briton, was among the country's most accomplished climbers. He was a mountain guide and former general secretary of the British Mountaineering Council.
Mr Payne, who was well known across many branches of world climbing, was described as "one of the very best mountain guides" by fellow enthusiasts.
He was also a former president of the British Mountain Guides and was originally from Hammersmith in west London, but reportedly lived in Leysin, Switzerland, with his wife Julie-Ann Clyma, also an experienced mountaineer.
Meanwhile, two survivors have given their account of the tragedy, describing how they were trapped by a wave of snow that hit them without a sound.
Danish survivor Thomas Dybro described how the snow came down and hit them with tremendous force. He said, "I feel like I've been hit by a truck and did ten rounds (of boxing). But they scanned me all over and I'm ok." Another survivor, 63-year-old guide Daniel Rossetto, described being tossed and trapped by the advancing snow.
Rossetto, who was leading two Danish climbers up the mountain, said the three of them may have survived because they were on the edge of the avalanched instead of the centre.
He said: "We took snow but we could still resist, but then big chunks of snow fell onto us so we were swept. We all fell together. And that's it. It's quick but it's always too long. When it started to slow down we were happy that it was slowing down because it's a lot of impact."
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said a church service would be held in Chamonix on Saturday afternoon in memory of the dead.
Relatives of the nine victims are believed to have already arrived in the resort to pay their respects.
Town hall security official Jean-Louis Verdier said the families had been taken to the hospital to see the bodies.
"We're trying to help them understand as best as possible why their loved ones died, so that they can mourn. There was no technical error," he said.
The avalanche claimed the lives two Spanish climbers, three Germans and one Swiss, as well as the three Britons, according to the Prefecture de la Haute-Savoie.
The victims were killed as they traversed Mont Maudit - translated as Cursed Mountain - in the Mont Blanc range near Chamonix. It is the massif's third-highest peak.
All the climbers were part of a 28-strong group which left a climbing hut to attempt the route, described by local guides as the second most popular route to the top of Mont Blanc, following a 1am breakfast.
The group included independent climbers and others supervised by professional mountaineering guides.
At around 5.20am, French authorities received reports that a "slab" avalanche had hit several groups of mountaineers who were roped together on the northern face of Mont Maudit at 4,000 metre.
Authorities said some climbers had crossed the path of the avalanche before it hit and others were able to turn back.
Describing the sequence of events, it said a block of ice 40cm thick broke off and slid down the slope, creating a mass of snow that was two metres deep and 100 metres long.
Two other Britons - including climber Dave Compton - were reported missing following the avalanche, but were confirmed safe and well after presenting themselves to police in Chamonix on Thursday evening.
Mr Compton, of Ellesmere Port, and his climbing mate were reported missing along with two Spanish climbers following the tragedy.
He later said that he was half an hour behind the group caught up in the avalanche and had turned back to Chamonix after seeing the aftermath.
The 41-year-old said he did not realise there was a search party out for him or the scale of what had happened until he saw the news.
:: Anyone concerned about friends or family following the avalanche can call the Foreign Office on +33 (0)1 44 51 31 00 or 0207 008 1500 in the UK.