The bad weather has also surprised soldiers with the elite St-Cyr officer training school close to Paris. Two officier trainees, of African origin have died of hypothermia while on an exercise in the Ubaye valley in the Alpes-de Haute-Provence.
After being surprised by a snowstorm they took refuge on Monday night at 2,500 meters altitude in the old barracks close to the Col de Restefond, Europe’s highest road pass. 7 other soldiers are reported to be suffering from the effects of the cold.
The bad weather has prevented the search for the missing British skier from restarting this morning. Stéphane Bozon, commander of the Chamonix Mountain Police was pessimistic about the chances of finding the man alive “it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack”, he commented.
Almost a year ago an Australian man died of hypothermia in the same area after getting disorientated.
After a number of days of poor weather conditions the search for the missing skier, Chris Kedy-Cady has been abandoned. Some of the missing skiers relatives had travelled to Chamonix. A spokesman for the Mountain Police said they had now given up hope of finding Mr Kedy-Cady alive.
It seems likely that the skier was a victim of an avalanche. If that is the case the snows will keep their secrets for many months yet.
Three army officers are appearing in front of the Military chamber of the Marseille criminal court tomorrow (20/Nov/2007) for their role in the death of the two trainee soldiers in the Ubaye.
The director of the exercise and two other officers are accused of having modified the initial programme without having taken into account the health and safety issues for exercise in a high mountain environment. An exercise that led to the deaths of two officers of African origin from the Saint Cyr military college. The officers are accused of manslaughter and actual bodily harm with respect to the seven other trainees.
Over the night of the 12/13th the temperature was between -5 and -8 Celsius with strong winds, snow and low visibility. The trainees had to cover 13km using snowshoes at 2600m altitude. Trapped on the col de Restefond the group built a bivouac. The officers didn’t alert the rescue services until 3 hours after the first death and didn’t appreciate the dramatic change in the weather. The Officers face 3 years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros.
Commander Christian Heintz and Capitan Pascal Lefebvre have been sentenced to 9 and 6 month prison terms respectively. The sentences were suspended. They both received a fine of 1400 euros. However these sentences will not be shown on their military record.