CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland – A 34-year-old Frenchman whose job was to check the safety of ski slopes died overnight after being injured in an avalanche at a popular Swiss Alps ski resort, police said Wednesday.
The man was one of four injured people who were rescued after being swept away Tuesday afternoon by an avalanche that hit a slope on Plaine Morte, a glacier near the town of Crans-Montana.
“Unfortunately, overnight one of the four injured people died,” said Steve Leger, a spokesman for the Valais canton police department.
Leger said 43 people reached out, worried that their friends or family had been hit by the avalanche, but “we systematically verified – found, located – these people and rule them out of danger.”
Nearly 250 rescue workers, medics, police officers and military personnel took part in the search, backed by eight helicopters and a dozen search dogs. They searched all night but stopped Wednesday morning.
The cause for the avalanche wasn’t immediately clear. Roughly half of the 840-meter (920-yard) long avalanche made a direct hit across the ski slope. Leger said one possibility was that it could have been triggered by the passage of a skier.
Switzerland’s Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research had put the risk of an avalanche in the area at level 2, which is relatively low on its 5-point scale.
The avalanche comes ahead of a weekend women’s World Cup event involving top skiers such as Switzerland’s Lara Gut on the Mont Lachaux run at Crans-Montana.
Authorities said the avalanche was not expected to affect the event, which begins with training runs on Thursday.