French Foreign Legionnaires die in Alps avalanche

2016-01-18 20:21
An image grab taken from a video released by Le Dauphine shows French troops near the site of an avalanche that killed five French Foreign Legionnaires near the resort of Valfrejus in the French Alps. (AFP)

An image grab taken from a video released by Le Dauphine shows French troops near the site of an avalanche that killed five French Foreign Legionnaires near the resort of Valfrejus in the French Alps. (AFP)

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Grenoble - Five French Foreign Legionnaires on a training exercise in the French Alps were killed on Monday by an avalanche, the second mountain tragedy in France in less than a week.

Another six soldiers were injured near the resort of Valfrejus, with one in intensive care in hospital after suffering hypothermia.

They were among a group of 50 soldiers taking part in the skiing exercise.

Three helicopters were involved in the search, as well as five police dogs and three doctors.

The nationalities of the victims were not immediately known. The French Foreign Legion attracts recruits from around the world.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was expected to visit the scene early on Tuesday.

The avalanche took place at 13:50 local time (12:50 GMT) at an altitude of between 2 350 and 2 600m.

French prosecutors have opened an investigation into the events to see whether the probe should be handed over to military authorities.

The regiment to which the soldiers were attached is specialised in mountain warfare and all the members have military skiing qualifications.

The unit experienced a similar tragedy in 2012 when an avalanche swept away five of its members, leaving one dead.

Students

Monday's accident came after two French teenage students and a Ukrainian tourist were killed in an avalanche in the French Alps last Wednesday.

A French teacher who took the students onto a closed skiing piste in that incident has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The 47-year-old, who was seriously injured in the incident was charged at his bedside in hospital in the south-central city of Grenoble.

The victims, a 16-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy, were from a school in Lyon. The 56-year-old Ukrainian man who was also killed in the avalanche was not part of the group.

According to prosecutors, the piste was closed off with netting and warnings in four languages, but the school group climbed over the netting "fully aware" of what they were doing.

Read more on:    france  |  military

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