Guilty sentences handed out in avalanche case

Twelve people died when avalanches swept through Evolène Keystone

A district court in Sion in canton Valais has found two men guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of 12 people who were killed by avalanches six years ago.

This content was published on February 23, 2005

The two were accused of not having taken the necessary safety precautions to prevent the tragedy in the alpine village of Evolène.

The court handed out suspended sentences of three months to Pierre-Henri Pralong, the former head of Evolène’s village council, and two months to mountain guide André Georges, who was in charge of security in the village at the time.

Prosecutors had sought six-month suspended sentences.

Pralong was also fined SFr20,000 ($17,000) and Georges SFr30,000.

Two avalanches swept through the village six years ago this month, killing 12 people, destroying ten houses as well as 25 hectares of forest. Among the victims were seven French, three Swiss and two Germans.

Exceptional winter

The defence argued that the men could not have predicted that the avalanches would descend as far as the village. It described the avalanche situation at the time as exceptional and unexpected.

According to the defence, the two had taken adequate precautions since they had closed roads and checked an empty chalet located in the high-risk zone.

But prosecutors argued that the men should have also ordered the evacuation of other areas considered less exposed to avalanches.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

12 people died in the avalanches in Evolène.
10 houses and 25 hectares of forest were destroyed.
The two accused were originally found not guilty by the justice authorities due to the unexpected nature of the avalanches.
But the families called for additional investigations which led to this week's trial.

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