Five German climbers killed in canton Valais

Air Zermatt was called in to search for the climbers. Keystone

Five German climbers have been killed in canton Valais when they fell while descending from the 4,010-metre-high Lagginhorn about 10 kilometres from the Italian border. The precise cause of the accident is not yet known.

This content was published on July 3, 2012 minutes and agencies

The five were in a party of six which had started its ascent early on Tuesday morning. The sixth person felt unwell when they were about 100 metres below the summit, and decided to stop, the cantonal police office reported.
The rest of the party reached the top, but around 1pm the group slipped and fell several hundred metres over a steep cliff. The survivor immediately alerted the local rescue service.
However, the rescue team found only dead bodies lying by the glacier, which were then winched up by helicopter. 

The victims include a 44-year-old man and his 17-year-old son, a 14-year-old girl and her 20-year-old brother, whose father turned back before reaching the summit, and a 21-year-old friend, the cantonal police reported on Wednesday. 

According to the police, the group was not roped together at the time of the accident. This seems to contradict claims by the leader of the rescue team who told the German news agency, DPA, on Tuesday that they were roped together and one climber may have slipped, taking the rest with him. Another possibility is that the snow started to slide. Fog has so far prevented investigators from flying over the region to look for the cause.  

The regional public prosecutor’s office has opened an enquiry - the normal procedure in such cases.

The accident is the most serious to have occurred in the Swiss mountains this year.

The 2011 report of the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention says an average of 30 people per year were killed in mountaineering accidents in Switzerland between 2005 and 2009. Just under half of them were foreigners.

According to the Swiss Alpine Club, Germans accounted for 40 per cent of all foreigners who died in the mountains - not necessarily mountaineering - in 2011. 

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