US Teen Among Those Killed in Massive Swiss Avalanche

Swiss authorities have confirmed that a massive avalanche on Easter Monday killed three individuals, one of them was a young American.

Near Zermatt, a major ski resort in the southern canton of Valais, three bodies were discovered after the group’s disappearance.

The dramatic search in the region of Riffelberg involved four helicopters. One person was injured and transported to a nearby hospital.

Forty-five rescuers—including eight avalanche dog handlers, thirteen rescue professionals, fifteen firemen, and several local ski instructors—participated in the searches.

Heavy snowfall and ‘hurricane force’ winds are causing authorities to warn of the danger of future calamities in the area.

When the avalanche occurred around 2 p.m., the skiers were outside the marked ski slopes.

Several had fallen off-piste on a “very steep slope” where traces could still be seen, according to Bruno Jelk, who is now in charge of avalanche monitoring in Mattertal and was formerly the chief of the Zermatt mountain rescue service.

According to officials, avalanche search equipment was discovered on two of the victims. “Identifications are still in progress” for the other two victims, a male and a woman, according to the police.

The ski resort was subject to sporadic avalanche warnings at an elevation of around 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) above sea level.

According to local media, the mountains were battered by severe “hurricane-force” gusts during the Easter weekend, resulting in heavy snowfall.

Ski Press spokesman Rob Stewart, who works in adjacent Swiss Alps resorts, sympathized with the deaths and reported heavy winds and snowfall in several areas last week.

Skiers are strongly encouraged not to go into off-piste regions that Rob indicated might be avalanche-prone, namely any slope 30 degrees or steeper.

The majority of avalanche accidents, he said, are avoidable with reasonable precautions, and victims are the ones who cause them in 90% of instances.

Avalanches have claimed the lives of fourteen Swiss citizens so far this winter, as reported by the SLF.