Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Tribute to Alps death schoolboy

Rescue services in Chamonix received a call for help from a man who informed them his son had fallen into a crevasse near Mont Blanc
Rescue services in Chamonix received a call for help from a man who informed them his son had fallen into a crevasse near Mont Blanc

A 12-year-old schoolboy who died along with his father while on holiday in the French Alps was a "talented and very motivated boy", his headteacher said.

David Hudson, the headmaster of the Royal Latin School in Buckingham, said Charlie Saunders "made a huge impact on the lives of everyone who knew him".

Charlie fell to his death at around 2pm on Saturday while on a walk with his father Peter Saunders, 48, along a mountain trail in the Chamonix valley, near the Italian border.

Mr Saunders called the emergency services but tumbled 200 metres while searching for his son, reports said. Their bodies were found together at 7.40am on Sunday after emergency services tried but failed to trace Mr Saunders' call and launched a helicopter rescue.

Headteacher Mr Hudson added: "He was a popular boy and threw himself into school life with 100% effort. Charlie loved a wide range of sports and especially the great outdoors. He will be hugely missed and we send our thoughts and prayers to his family, especially his mother and sister, at this tragic time."

Captain Patrice Ribes, a French police officer, said Charlie and Mr Saunders had come to the popular ski resort for a father-son weekend. The rest of the family were still in England but are expected to travel to the Chamonix valley, he said.

A judicial inquiry is being carried out by the local gendarmerie and the bodies will be flown back to England this week, the police officer added.

Capt Ribes said the pair had summer shoes on but should have been wearing crampons, suitable to the winter conditions. Mike Margeson, a professional mountain guide and vice-chairman of Mountain Rescue England and Wales, said crampons and an ice axe were "essential" when mountaineering in winter.

"Incidents like these will happen when people aren't equipped properly," he said. "If you have the littlest slip and you don't have crampons and an ice axe, and know how to use them, it could be fatal."

In a statement issued by the Foreign Office, the Saunders family said: "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."

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