British Teenager with Avalanche Airbag Dies in Austrian Avalanche

SnowBrains | | AvalancheAvalanche
lech
Lech am Arlberg, Austria.

A British father, his 16-year-old twin boys, and there ski instructor were skiing off-piste at Lech am Arlberg ski resort in Austria at 1:24pm on Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 when they were caught in an avalanche.  Three of the four were caught in the avalanche and two of the three caught in the avalanche were completely buried.  It appears that the avalanche was caused by a cornice collapse above the skiers.  One of the boys was not involved in the avalanche as he was behind the other skiers.   His twin brother was killed by the avalanche.

“The accident happened at 13.24 [1:24pm] on Tuesday afternoon when a ridge of snow fell around the Madloch-Fauler Stock while the group of four were heading to Stierlochbach.” – Austrian Times

The deceased boy was wearing and had activated his avalanche airbag backpack.  The boy’s 51-year-old father, who also activated his avalanche backpack, was able to pull the boy from the avalanche debris alive after being extracted by the instructor, but the boy had received serious injuries.  These injuries lead to his passing at the scene.  The father also received serious injuries and was airlifted to a local hospital.

avy airbag diagram
How an avalanche airbag backpack ideally works.

Reports claim that the ski instructor also had an avalanche airbag backpack and he had activated it during the slide.  The instructor ended up on top, made an emergency phone call, and with the help of the boy who was not involved in the avalanche, began searching for the other two buried skiers.

Local authorities have stated that the slope the group was skiing was not an authorized route for Lech am Arlberg’s ski instructors.  The ski instructor, who was caught in the avalanche but escaped with minor injuries, is currently being investigated on charges of ‘negligence leading to serious injury with fatal consequences’.

 “The route they were on was according to our information not authorized. It was not allowed to go there, and the ski instructor that was responsible for the group and had an obligation not to take risks is under investigation.” – local police spokesman told the Austrian Times

lech map
Map of Austria showing Lech in the far west.

At the time that the avalanche occurred, the avalanche danger was considered a category 1, signifying that the avalanche risk in the area was low.  The snow is reported to have been thin and hard pressed at the time of the avalanche.

“The only lower category is 0 and we only have that in the summer. Even with a category 1 alert, people need to be aware that there are areas where it is nevertheless extremely dangerous. In addition it shows that even for people that are properly equipped, when there is an avalanche, there are no guarantees. Both of the injured had the avalanche air bags but it did not prevent this tragedy.” – Andreas Pecl from the Avalanche Warning Service in Vorarlberg

lech map
Lech am Arlberg, Austria

This ski resort, Lech am Arlberg in Austria, is the same ski resort where Dutch Prince Friso was buried in an avalanche while skiing with a guide for over 20 minutes.  Friso fell into a coma that lasted until his death.

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One thought on “British Teenager with Avalanche Airbag Dies in Austrian Avalanche

  1. Wow, surprised by this one. Avy danger is super low in the Arlberg right now. It’s a good reminder that you can never be too sure.

    Sympathy to the family.

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