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Experienced hiker and 12-year-old son who fell in French Alps died by misadventure


An avalanche in the French Alps has swept five climbers to their deaths and left two missing.

An avalanche in the French Alps has swept five climbers to their deaths and left two missing.

An avalanche in the French Alps has swept five climbers to their deaths and left two missing.

An experienced mountain hiker and his 12-year-old son who fell in the French Alps died by misadventure, a coroner has ruled.

Peter and Charlie Saunders were walking near the steep Couloir des Pyramides in the Chamonix Valley, Mont Blanc, when the accident happened in March 2013.

Milton Keynes Coroner's Court today heard how father and son from Maids Moreton near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, both "loved the outdoors" and frequently travelled on mountain holidays to go skiing and walking.

Deputy Coroner Elizabeth Gray said that having pre-planned a "safe" walking route in an area Mr Saunders and his son had travelled earlier that year, the pair found themselves in a "dangerous" section higher up, when the youngster fell.

Their bodies were found by mountain rescue teams the following morning on Sunday, March 17.

Giving her ruling Miss Gray added: "Peter and Charlie both died as a result of misadventure and that's the formal conclusion I draw."

She also said that despite repeated requests for information to the French made through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "we've had nothing back despite over two years of making these requests."

However, she told the family any input from the French authorities' may be of limited value given there were no reports of anyone witnessing exactly what happened to the British pair.

Mr Saunders' widow, housewife Sandra Saunders told how - back in the UK - she had a text from her husband from the snow-covered slopes at noon, saying he and his son were "having a great time".

The 48-year-old also sent her a photograph of the two, which was later used to help guide French rescue teams to the area where they disappeared.

Mrs Saunders said it was last contact she had with her husband, and remembered thinking it "not quite right", when Mr Saunders had still failed to respond by nightfall.

During the inquest, Mr Saunders' widow described him as "an exceptional person" who "put family at the heart of everything" while her son, who attended the Royal Latin School, in Buckingham, was intelligent and, "sporty" and - like his father - "very fit".

Mrs Gray said: "It's clear where Peter and Charlie had been found, they'd made better progress than they thought they would.

"From the location where they were found they had actually progressed to a point where the trail had become dangerous, perhaps unwittingly, and perhaps it caught them unawares.

"And that's where Charlie fell initially."

Cause of death was given as multiple injuries as a result of a fall from a mountain.

PA Media