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Court upholds negligence convictions against guides

The Swiss federal court has upheld the convictions of two tour organisers found guilty of negligent homicide in the death of an American tourist in the Alps more than three years ago.

The Lausanne-based court on Tuesday upheld a district court ruling that the two had failed to take proper care of a 22-year-old American, William Hogue, who froze to death after becoming separated from a tour group.

The court said there had been "clear organisation and coordination" mistakes, and confirmed the suspended sentences, of three and two months, handed down to the two tour organisers, who were not named.

Hogue fell into a crevasse and froze to death in August 1997, after becoming separated from the rest of the tour group near the Matterhorn.

The original court testimony said Hogue had been sent alone by lift to catch up with the rest of group. He apparently got off at the wrong station and wandered onto a glacier while looking for the group.

The court said Hogue should never have been allowed to separate from the group in the first place. It added that the organisers should never have sent a tourist inexperienced in mountain survival into the Alps without instructions as to what to do if he failed to find the group.

The court also criticised the organisers for making no attempt to determine what had happened to Hogue, when he later failed to appear. "In no case should the guide have left the mountain station without making sure of [Hogue's] location and safety."

swissinfo with agencies

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