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Memorial service held for victims of Swiss canyoning disaster

Relatives and friends of the victims lay a wreath at a ceremony in Wilderswil Keystone

More than 100 people attended a private memorial service on Thursday near the Swiss resort of Interlaken to pay tribute to 21 people who were killed in a canyoning accident exactly one year ago.

The mourners, mainly relatives and friends of the dead, held the ceremony above the Saxet Gorge. The victims died when a flash flood swept through the gorge.

The service took place around a memorial stone bearing the names of the dead. Bouquets were laid around the monument with the flags of their native countries.

Many of the mourners had come from Australia. The flood claimed the lives of 14 Australians, one New Zealander, two South Africans, two Swiss and two Britons.

The head of the Interlaken Tourist office, Hannes Imboden, told the mourners that exactly a year ago their lives had been changed forever, and that many questions still remained. He said the accident had showed the need to listen better to nature and respect its force.

Those killed were among a group of 53 tourists and guides who were on a canyoning trip. The activity is classified as an “extreme sport”, and involves jumping, abseiling and swimming through canyons or gorges.

The event was organised by an Interlaken-based company called “Adventure World”. It has since closed down, following the death of a bungy jumper in May, who was attached to a rope that was too long.

The relatives of the canyoning victims have still to decide whether to take legal action over the disaster. They have delayed making a decision until the investigation into the accident is concluded.

That inquiry has been going on for almost a year, and is trying to determine whether the owners and employees of “Adventure World” can be held criminally responsible.

The company has rejected all allegations of recklessness, claiming that the accident was a freak of nature that gave them no warning.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR