A YOUNG Irishman has died after being crushed under three metres of snow by an avalanche in Switzerland.
Swiss police from the Uri province discovered the body of the 27-year-old yesterday morning after he had been reported missing by his girlfriend.
The Alpine Rescue Switzerland confirmed to the Irish Independent that the victim was swept over 500 metres by the avalanche.
It is believed that he was only 30 minutes into his skiing excursion when the avalanche struck. The body was found near the town of Realp in central Switzerland by mountain rescue volunteers who arrived at the scene in helicopters.
Authorities say investigations are ongoing but they believe the avalanche was caused by a combination of heavy snow and strong winds.
They are also examining whether falling ice set off a slab avalanche, a falling block of snow 150 metres wide.
"When a slab of snow breaks away there's a huge amount of weight behind it. It's like a big slab of concrete landing on top of you," said Tom Metcalse from the Irish Association of Snow Sports Instructors (IASSI).
Gusting snow posed the greatest danger in Swiss mountain regions, he said.
"It's such a terrible tragedy for this man's family. People need to take heed of avalanche warnings when they go out on the mountains. We don't know what happened in this case but often people go out without the right equipment and without the right people around you, it's extremely hazardous."
The man was reported missing by his girlfriend on Thursday evening after he failed to return from a skiing excursion.
It is understood he was one of a group who were skiing below the summit and that he lived in an area close to Zurich.
Mark O'Regan, Sam Griffin and Emma Jane Hade