British skier falls down crevasse as helicopter slides off mountain

Helicopters in the rescue operation at the Petit Combin mountain in the Swiss Alps – AFP

Three British skiers survived an avalanche, and one to fall 30m down a crevasse, after their helicopter crashed and slid down the Swiss Alps, killing three.

One of the Britons, Edward Courage, is thought to have saved the lives of the young brothers Teddy and Guy Hitchens, who are also believed to be from Britain, by pushing them out of the stricken aircraft as it slid off the summit.

Mr Courage, who is based in Verbier, was among six people, including the pilot and a mountain guide, traveling on board the Air-Glacier B3 helicopter. It was to be released at the top of the Petit Combin mountain near Verbier on Tuesday morning.

Conditions were described as “perfect powder”, “sunshine” and “bluebird”, with “no wind – although there may have been gusts”.

Valais canton police said: “When he reached a mountain summit that ended 3,668m above sea level, for a reason that the investigation must determine, the aircraft slid down the northern slope.”

Photos taken after the crash show marks on the side of the mountain apparently where the helicopter came down. Other skiers reported that the helicopter was then swallowed by the avalanche. Debris remained at the scene. There were no ski tracks from the missing helicopter, which other guides at the time were concerned about.

pilot Jerome Loveypilot Jerome Lovey

The crash killed pilot Jerome Lovey, pictured – LinkedIn

The pilot, local father of two Jerome Lovey, died in the accident, along with young skier James Goff and their guide Adam George, originally from New Hampshire in the United States.

A skier who reached the summit shortly afterwards said: “We landed after them on the south side of Le Petit Combin and saw the avalanche. It was terrible. We couldn’t make out the helicopter, it was being thrown in the avalanche. We heard about the accident on the radio. We were advised to get off the mountain safely.”

Adam George helicopter with clients, taken before the accidentAdam George helicopter with clients, taken before the accident

Adam George helicopter with clients, taken before the accident

Seven rescue helicopters were quickly dispatched to search for survivors. “Two injured people were treated quickly before being airlifted to Sion Hospital, and the third person was later rescued,” the police say.

Mr Courage, who is in his sixties and part of the Courage brewing family, fell approximately 500m down a near-vertical slope. He was swept by the avalanche and then fell 30m into a crevasse.

He and the other two Britons survived. The Hitchens brothers ended up close to each other despite falling apart long after the helicopter crash.

The impact track of the helicopter can be seen on the mountainThe impact track of the helicopter can be seen on the mountain

The impact track of the helicopter can be seen on the mountain (ring)

Although the emergency services quickly recovered the brothers from the snow, Mr Courage was stuck on a ledge in the crevasse for five hours before he was found thanks to a transceiver and climbed to safety.

Mr Courage, a figure in Verbier’s English church community, is reported to be undergoing operations, having suffered broken bones. Two are still in hospital. Teddy has been released.

Crevasses on the alpCrevasses on the alp

Crevasses on the alp

Gilbert Crettaz, director of Adrenaline Heliski in Verbier, who has been a mountain guide in the Alps for 25 years, said: “This is the 3,672m peak you can see from Verbier, just to the right of its big sister, the Grand Combin. – what you are looking at is the steep north face. There are many different routes down and they all require a high level of skiing. It is a 2,000m descent.”

Free Adam George mountain guide,Free Adam George mountain guide,

Mountain guide Adam George was killed in the helicopter crash at Petit Combin

Those who knew him said Mr George was a very experienced and reliable guide who has often scaled El Capitan, as well as other difficult climbs such as the North face of the Eiger.

British explorer Tom Avery, CEO of Ski Verbier Exclusive, said: “The Petit Combin (peak 3,672m) is a classic Verbier heli route and Adam George is a well-respected local guide. It is a terrible loss for the whole community.”

A donation group has been set up for Adam’s wife Caroline George-Ware and daughter Olivia. Adam’s funeral will take place next week.

Mrs George-Ware, co-founder of their guide company Into the Mountains, said: “We had our first climbing date and managed to get a summit.”

The pilot, Mr Lovey, was also an instructor and had been working full-time for Air Glaciers since September 2022.

It comes as three people were killed on Monday by an avalanche at the luxury Swiss ski resort of Zermatt.

Police said Wednesday that one of the dead was a young woman from Canada. The exchange also claimed the lives of a 15-year-old teenager and a 58-year-old Swiss man.

Valais canton police said another skier may be under the snow after a 30-year-old man was reported missing on Tuesday.

Around 17 people have lost their lives in exchanges in Switzerland since October 1 last year.

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPC), which is responsible for aviation accidents, opened an investigation. A safety investigation has also been launched by the SESE (Swiss Safety Investigation Service).

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