Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains
The Grand Combin massif mountain near Verbier, Switzerland. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”

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French teen shot dead in gunfight with police

An 18-year-old girl was killed in a gun battle with police in southeastern France in the early hours of Wednesday, prosecutors said, the latest in a nationwide string of violent traffic stops.

French teen shot dead in gunfight with police

The girl was the passenger in a vehicle whose driver refused to stop when ordered and fired shots at officers, Grenoble prosecutor Eric Vaillant said in a statement.

She “died of the effects of a shot that hit her in the neck” when police returned fire, Vaillant added, while the wounded driver was brought to hospital.

The male driver had accelerated towards the officers when they got out of their vehicle to stop the car in the Grenoble suburb of Saint-Martin-d’Heres, the prosecutors said.

He lost control of the car following the exchange of fire and was captured while attempting to flee on foot.

France’s national internal affairs body, the IGPN, is probing the shots fired by the police, while the driver is under investigation for attempted murder of a public official.

More than 10 people have been killed in 2022 alone in France in situations where drivers have refused to halt when ordered by police.