The dangerous job of the S&R worker

The crash of a Eurocopter 145 belonging to the Sécurité Civile in the Hautes-Pyrénées department brings to 8 the number of mountain rescue workers killed since December. The accident occured during a training exercise close to the ski resort of Gavarnie. Three members of the mountain rescue services were killed in the crash and a fourth seriously injured. The accident happened at around 12h30 just after the pilot and mechanic from the Sécurité Civile had collected two members of the CRS (specialist mountain police units) from Gavarnie. The helicopter burst into flames after crashing at 3,000 meters altitude in an area that was difficult for rescuers to reach.

eurocopter ec145
A EC145 of the type that crashed yesterday

In December 2005 a member of the PGM (mountain units of the Gendarmerie) was killed by a large avalanche in the resort of Le Lioran in the Massif-Central during a routine patrol. In January a member of the Deux-Alpes piste patrol was killed by an avalanche while patrolling the Pied-Moutet bowl. In February a member of the Piste Patrol at la Toussuire in the Savoie department was buried by a large avalanche. Found in a serious conditions he died later of his injuries.

On the 9th of March an avalanche that hit a rescue exercise at the ski resort of Auron in the Martime Alps killed a member of the PGHM and injured two others including head of the CRS at Saint-Martin-Vésubie. A member of the piste patrol was seriously injured by an avalanche at same resort on the 18th of February. Following the accident a spokeman for the French police union claimed that the Sécurité Civile helicopter based at Cannes was not available due to a visit by the French President Jacques Chirac hampering the operation. A couple of days later a highly regarded member of the piste patrol for the ski resort of Bernex in the Haute-Savoie was killed when an avalanche swept him over cliffs. He became the 50th avalanche victim in France this year. The previous worse season on record was 1981 with 47 avalanche deaths.

There have been a number of serious helicopter accidents in the Pyrennees over the last three years. On the 19th of April three members of the French army were killed when their Puma helicopter crashed at Sers close to the ski resort of Barèges-La Mongie in the Hautes-Pyrénées. The men were on a mountain flying exercise at the time of the accident. The helicopter is thought to have crashed after trying to avoid a goods cable car between the village and the 1000 meter high summit of le Capet. The pilot may have been blinded by the sun. The helicopter exploded after hitting the mountain.

In August 2005 a passenger of a France Telecom helicopter suffered leg injuries while landing at the ski resort of Artouste in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. The rotor blades of the helicopter hit rocks on the pic de la Sagette due to a mistake while landing. The helicopter was working on mobile phone masts

On the 20th July 2003 an EC 145 belonging to the Sécurité civile crashed on the north face of the Arbizon during a mountain rescue operation. Six people were on board at the time. A member of the CRS (mountain police) was killed in the accident, the pilot and mechanic were seriously injured. The operation had been to recover an injured climber. Flying conditions were good at the time of the accident and it is possible that the rotors were hit by falling rocks.

Eurocopter EC 145
Based on the BK 117 developed by MBB (Eurocopter) and Kawasaki during the 1970s the EC 145 is powered by two Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 engines giving a total power output of 780 horsepower. The 3.8 tonne helicopter has a range of 510km (2h45 flying time) and a maximum speed of 245 km/h.

The EC 145 entered service with French Search and Rescue teams in 2002 and is slowly replacing the Alouette III. The helicopter can transport 10 people instead of 6 and has a gyroscope stabilized infra-red camera and night vision equipment enabling rescue operations in a wider range of conditions. It has a long 90 meter winch which is operated externally by the mechanic from a small platform using a remote control.

Posted by davidof on Tuesday, 06 June, 2006 at 09:03 AM

Any way to find more details on these 8 rescue policeman who have died?  Names, dates of incidents and what happened?  Would like to inform the MRA Honor Guard.

Posted by  on  Wednesday, 07 June, 2006  at 10:00 AM


I only have a few of the names of those involved. I’m always slightly concerned about giving names in article on even where they are in the public domain. On the one hand it doesn’t change the information, on the other it can be useful for people searching for more information.

I hadn’t heard of the MRA Honor Guard. This link may be of interest to readers.

Posted by davidof on  Thursday, 08 June, 2006  at 11:34 PM

Condolences from Seattle Mountain Rescue to the PGM on their loss.  If anyone can get the names to the MRA Honor Guard at they will be honored on the MRA website.

Posted by Bergschlawiner on  Thursday, 21 February, 2008  at 02:54 AM

Condolences from Illinois

Posted by Jim on  Friday, 08 February, 2013  at 02:04 AM
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