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Investigation into canyoning accident proves slow process

The Swiss authorities said Thursday that the identification of the 19 bodies recovered from Tuesday’s tragic canyoning accident near Interlaken would be a slow process and investigators called for help from those who might have known the victims.

This content was published on July 29, 1999 - 18:21

The Swiss authorities said Thursday that the identification of the 19 bodies recovered from Tuesday’s tragic canyoning accident near Interlaken would be a slow process and investigators called for help from those who might have known the victims.

Two victims have been identified: one of them is a Swiss woman and the other a man with a British passport, Swiss police said. Both victims were part of the crew of Adventure World, the company which organised the canyoning trip.

Forensic experts said the identification of the victims was very difficult since the adventure seekers were carrying no identification papers and virtually no items that would facilitate easy and positive identification.

Police said that, according to their latest investigations, 14 of the 21 victims and missing persons came from Australia, and two from New Zealand, South Africa and Switzerland respectively. One person was from Great Britain.

The names of the victims will be released on the Internet once their families have been notified. The address is: http://www.police.be.ch/

The special helpline for relatives is:

(International code for Switzerland), then 31 634 20 51.
(For calls made in Switzerland) 031 634 20 51.

“Persons who can give more information about the victims should contact the helpline,” investigators said on their website.

Forty-five tourists and eight guides participated in four groups in the adventure, a police spokesman said. Most of those killed in the canyoning accident in the Saxeten creek gorge came from groups two and three.

Based on the investigative findings so far, it was assumed that the canyoning adventurers were surprised by a sudden flash flood carrying rocks and trees, which swept the tourists away.

Forensic experts said most of the victims appeared to have drowned and that many had sustained injuries and bruises to their heads. Many helmets were torn off and all shoes were sucked off by the stormy waters, police said.

Medical officials said that five of the six injured had now been released from hospital.

Investigators said they were also following up reports about the thunderstorms in the region at the time of the accident and warnings to the adventurers not to enter the gorge.

The Swiss government said a memorial service for the victims would be held next Thursday. Swiss Sports Minister Adolf Ogi was to attend the service.

The Swiss fire brigade has said it was aware of the flood on Tuesday afternoon and emergency services had sent a man to the river to try and warn the group of the danger.

Police on Thursday resumed dragging the bottom of nearby Lake Brienz and searching rocks around the Saxeten mountain stream.


From staff and wire reports.

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