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Parents of canyoning victim take legal steps in Switzerland

(AP) -- The parents of one of 21 people killed in a canyoning accident have taken the first legal steps in Switzerland against the organisers of the river adventure, police said Friday.

This content was published on September 17, 1999 - 15:35

(AP) -- The parents of one of 21 people killed in a canyoning accident have taken the first legal steps in Switzerland against the organisers of the river adventure, police said Friday.

Most of the victims who drowned in a flash flood on July 27 were from Australia, where relatives have been investigating their legal rights in Switzerland, but Berne cantonal (state) police refused to say which parents had filed suit.

The initial action makes the two parents party to the investigation. As complainants, they have full access to findings of the authorities. Neither they nor any other relatives have yet filed for damages in Switzerland, but that is still possible, police said.

Any trial that may result from the investigation will be open to the public, but until then only complainants and anyone accused will have access to the confidential investigation.

The cantonal police issued a statement Friday saying that no relatives of the victims will incur any costs from the investigation, denying what it said were reports in Australia.

"The examining magistrate responsible for the investigations states that this is an official inquiry," the statement said. "Under no circumstances will the costs have to be borne either by the relatives of the victims or by the survivors of the accident."

Some 11 people are under investigation, including five surviving guides and other organisers.

"Several detailed interrogations are being held by the examining magistrate with the purpose of bringing the initial proceedings to a swift conclusion without interruption," the statement said, but added it is impossible to say yet how much more time will be needed.

The victims of the accident, aged between 19 and 31, were in a party of 45 people taking part in the canyoning activity. The body of one of the victims has yet to be recovered.

In canyoning, participants slide, jump or rappel down waterfalls and mountain streams into gorges.

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