Alps deaths: British father and son, Peter and Charlie Saunders found dead after plunging "hundreds of feet" down a mountain


First pictures of father and son killed in Alps hiking trip : Panic-stricken Briton was 'phoning for help for the 12-year-old when he also fell'
Peter and Charlie Saunders died at 'The Junction' in Chamonix ValleyPair had set off on hike without specialist equipment like crampons
Spring thaw of snow and ice creates potentially lethal conditions

PUBLISHED:

10:59 GMT, 17 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

22:54 GMT, 17 March 2013

A frantic father made a desperate call to emergency services after his 12-year-old son plunged down a French mountain before the line went dead as he fell to his own death trying to rescue him.

Peter and Charlie Saunders were found dead within a few hundred metres of each other after tumbling 'hundreds of feet' in the Chamonix Valley in the Alps.

It appears the father, 48, tragically fell as he called the emergency services while trying to get to his stricken son.

In a statement issued by the Foreign
Office, their family said: 'Peter and Charlie Saunders were involved in a
tragic accident whilst walking in the French Alps.

Peter Saunders

Charlie Saunders

Peter (left) and Charlie (right) Saunders were involved in a tragic accident whilst walking in the French Alps

The helicopter rescue of Peter and Charlie Saunders who died whilst walking in Chamonix on Saturday afternoon. The pictures show one of the victims being winched with a rescuer aboard the rescue helicopter with the Glacier des Bossons as a backdrop

EXCLUSIVE PICTURE: The helicopter rescue of Peter and Charlie Saunders who died whilst
walking in Chamonix on Saturday afternoon. The pictures show one of the
victims being winched with a rescuer aboard the rescue helicopter with
the Glacier des Bossons as a backdrop

Tragedy: A British father, 48, and his son, 12, have been found dead in the French Alps after they plunged down a mountain at Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

Tragedy: They plunged down a mountain at
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

The tragic pair died in the popular skiing destination of Chamonix in the French Alps

The tragic pair died in the popular skiing destination of Chamonix in the French Alps

'They had flown to the French Alps for a short weekend of adventure in the Chamonix valley.

'They were to have a half day walking followed by a full day skiing.

'Their bodies were recovered by the local mountain rescue this morning.

'Charlie was always full of life, had a really happy temperament and loved spending time with his father.

'Peter was fantastic at making things happen, resourceful, with a positive approach to life.

'They will both be sorely missed by friends and family alike.

'We would be grateful to the media for respecting the privacy of the
family and friends that Peter and Charlie leave behind at this difficult
time.

'We would like to take this opportunity to thank the French rescue services for all their efforts.'

A local police spokesman said that Charlie fell first and his father followed while on the phone to rescue services.

He said: ‘The call was then cut off and the caller could not be heard anymore.'

‘His son
had fallen around half way down a slope, but could not be reached,’ said
Captain Ribes, of the Chamonix high mountain police, who said the call was
logged at the mountain rescue operations centre in nearby Annecy.

Captain Ribes said that the boy appeared to have fallen around 300 metres,
while his father fell around 200 metres.

He added ‘the father had presumably tried to help his son, but fell
himself’.

He said both had arrived direct from Geneva airport on Saturday to spend the
weekend hiking around the notoriously dangerous Chamonix and to an area referred to by mountaineers as ‘The Junction’, in the
Bossons range of the Valley.

But the pair set off ‘without snowshoes’, which Captain Ribes said would have made it impossible to stop in the slushy conditions.

MONT BLANC: THE NOTORIOUS KILLER THAT CLAIMED TEN JUST THIS MONTH

Tragedy: A British father, 48, and his son, 12, have been found dead in Chamonix in the French Alps after they plunged down a mountain

The father and son are thought to
have reached a high altitude by taking the chair lift from Bossons
village to the approaches of the Bossons Glacier, at 1400m.

From
there, they are thought to have set off on the well-known La Jonction
(Junction) hike, which is hugely popular with tourists, especially in
the summer months.

La
Jonction is a rocky spur from which hikers can look out towards the
Bossons and Taconnaz glaciers. It was is on the route taken by the
Frenchmen who first ascended Mont Blanc in 1786.

The
slopes around Mont Blanc, the highest peak in western Europe, are
notoriously dangerous, with scores of mountaineers, skiers and hikers
dying on them every year.

Not
only is the fabled ‘White Mountain’ 15,780 feet high, but the climbs
around it are some of the most technically difficult in the world.

Despite this, it is often mistakenly claimed that people can enjoy an easy stroll up the slopes.
Hundreds
set off on paths every day without ice axes or crampons, let alone
other basic equipment like extra food supplies and tents.

Many of the 20,000-plus people who attempt to reach the summit each year are inexperienced or completely novice climbers.

Earlier this month no less than 10 people – including mountaineers and off-piste skiers – died in the Mont Blanc area.

Interpol
contacted the pair’s family back in the UK and, thanks to a photograph already
sent by the father earlier in the day through his smart phone, the emergency
service were able to pinpoint the location to a few meters.

Mountain
specialists using a laptop in Colombia had also helped to locate the scene of
the tragedy.
A helicopter was scrambled and immediately began searching up until
nightfall on Sunday.

It resumed the hunt at first light on Sunday, and both bodies were found at
around 7.40am.

Captain Ribes said his officers were liaising with the British authorities over the tragedy.

A
spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: 'We are aware
of the deaths of two British nationals in the French Alps and we are
providing consular assistance to the family at this difficult time.'