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Switzerland holds memorial service for canyoning victims

A memorial service will be held in the Swiss resort of Interlaken on Thursday for the victims of the tragic canyoning accident over a week ago.

This content was published on August 4, 1999 - 08:44

A memorial service will be held in the Swiss resort of Interlaken on Thursday for the victims of the tragic canyoning accident over a week ago.

Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, Vice President Adolf Ogi and Australian Governor-general Sir William Deane are expected to attend the service.

Police have finished identifying the 20 victims who have been recovered so far. Relatives of the victims -- 13 of them from Australia and the others from New Zealand, South Africa, Britain and Switzerland -- have been helping with the slow and difficult process of identifying the badly battered bodies.

The search still continues for the last missing victim, Berne cantonal police said. Rescuers using an underwater camera have been concentrating on Lake Brienz, about 4 kilometers (2 1/2 miles) downstream from the scene of the accident.

The tragedy occurred when the 21 people were swept away in a flash flood during a canyoning excursion in the Saxeten river gorge.

In a message to Deane, Australia's head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, said she was "greatly saddened to hear of the terrible loss of young lives."

Swiss authorities are formally investigating whether five guides on the expedition were guilty of negligent homicide for not taking notice of a pending storm. Another three guides who went with the group of 45 vacationers were killed in last Tuesday's flood.

Managers of Adventure World, the local firm that organized the excursion, say the guides received tough training that included coping with flood conditions.

Swiss police said Wednesday they were extending a formal investigation into the guides.

Authorities last week said they were investigating whether five guides who were on the expedition were guilty of negligent homicide for not taking notice of a pending storm. Three other guides who went with the group of 45 vacationers were among the dead.

The organizer's "lead guide," whose responsibilities include assigning guides to groups and deciding whether or not trips go ahead, is now being included in the investigation, the police said.


From staff and wire reports.

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