A British father and son who fell to their deaths in the French Alps over the weekend have been named as Peter and Charlie Saunders of Buckingham.
Reports from France suggest Mr Saunders, 48, fell while desperately searching for his 12-year-old son, who had slipped and fallen minutes earlier as the pair walked in the Mont Blanc region.
It is understood Mr Saunders was on the phone to emergency services asking for help to rescue his son – a pupil at Buckingham’s Royal Latin School – when he lost his footing.
The emergency call was made on Saturday afternoon, with the bodies of Mr Saunders and his son discovered at 7.40am yesterday, Sunday, during a fourth aerial search.
Resuce services have said that Charlie had fallen about 980ft; his father was discovered about 150ft above him. They were at an altitude of 5,000ft on the 15,781ft mountain.
The area where the tragedy happened has a number of footpaths which weave in and out of the mountainside.
Captain Patrice Ribes of the mountain police in the French ski resort of Chamonix said: ‘We think the man fell while he was on the phone to the police. We think he called immediately after his son had fallen and that he fell very shortly after. It all happened very quickly.’
A statement from the family issued by the Foreign Office last night said: ‘Peter and Charlie Saunders were involved in a tragic accident whilst walking in the French Alps.
‘They had flown to the French Alps for a short weekend of adventure in the Chamonix valley. They were to have a half-day walking followed by a full day skiing. Their bodies were recovered by the local mountain rescue.
‘Charlie was always full of life, had a really happy temperament and loved spending time with his father. Peter was fantastic at making things happen, resourceful, with a positive approach to life. They will both be sorely missed by friends and family alike.’
The pair had arrived in the Chamonix valley on Saturday morning, staying in the town of Les Houches.
The area they had chosen to hike, called La Jonction, at Les Bossons is a popular summer route rather than suitable for winter or early spring. There are steep escarpments and the path is often covered with snow and ice at this time of the year.
Captain Ribes added: ‘The accident is being investigated and it will determine the circumstances of the accident, as well as the level of preparation of the hiker and his experience. The father and son should have had proper mountain equipment – crampons and climbing gear.’