Avalanche victims all 'good skiers': Mountain experience and fitness aids survivor who tells medical partner that he is 'shocked, but lucky to be alive'

ONE OF the victims of Saturday's avalanche at Val d'Isere was a woman doctor who only decided at the last minute to join her husband so that she could go skiing.

Ann Gillingham and her husband Jeremy, a conference assessor, both 44, came from Bridgend on Tayside. Her father-in-law, Professor John Gillingham, said yesterday that his first thought on learning of his son and daughter-in-law's deaths was one of 'disbelief'.

Professor Gillingham, a retired specialist in neurological surgery at Edinburgh University, said: 'They have been skiing for many years - since they were seven or eight years of age. They would have been very aware of any potential dangers.'

Dr Gillingham and his wife were both general practitioners and he also lectured at Dundee University. Their son Mark, 18, is a student at Edinburgh University, and daughter Melissa, 16, is a boarder at Strathallan School in Perth. They were skiing at Glenshee in the Highlands yesterday when Prof Gillingham broke the news to them.

Another of the victims, Jan Hofmeyr, 38, a partner in a Reading surgery, was to due to be joined by his wife Janet, a physiotherapist at Battle Hospital in Reading, for the second week of his stay.

She left home yesterday morning and heard the news of his death when she arrived in Geneva, from where she phoned Jan's father, John, 77, at his home in Goring on Thames, Oxfordshire.

Dr John Hofmeyr said: 'Janet phoned us just after noon today and it came totally out of the blue. Obviously it came as a great shock to us. He was a good skiier and had been to Val d'Isere three or four times before and had been skiing every year since he was a schoolboy.'

Dr Hofmeyr was an all-round sportsman who excelled at hockey at London University, where he qualified in 1970 after training at the Royal London Hospital. His two children, Paul, 6, and Kathy, 4, were being comforted by relatives.

The fourth victim, Dr Claire Webber, had a practice based at Pound House in Bourne End, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Her father, Howard, 66, a retired businessman, said: 'She was devoted to her profession and she was also a great sportswoman. She particularly loved skiing.'

A medical colleague said: 'She was totally professional, the sort of woman you could ring up at four o'clock in the morning and she wouldn't grumble.'

Dr Webber, 33, was single and shared a cottage with her brother Mark in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. She qualified at London University and trained at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington.

The fifth victim, Dr Howard Fleet, who was in his late forties, was a consultant paediatrician at High Wycombe General Hospital. He leaves a wife and two children, who live at Little Kingshill, Buckinghamshire.

Susan Harding, administrator at High Wycombe General Hospital, said: 'I'm sure his former colleagues and patients will be devastated by this news. He was a very well respected and an excellent doctor - one of the most popular people in the organisation.'

The French guide who died was Hugo Ferrier, 30, who had been instructing ski parties in Val D'Isere for a number of years.

Dr Christopher Ackner, who survived the avalanche, is one of eight partners at a surgery in Penryn, Cornwall. He suffered shock but no serious injuries and is due to leave hospital in Bourg St Maurice today. He got in touch with the surgery yesterday to reassure colleagues he was all right and added that he was 'lucky to be alive'.

Dr Michael Ellis, one of his partners, said that Dr Ackner, in his 40s, had been skiing for about 30 years, and was very experienced and fit, which helped to save his life. 'A lot of the partners go skiing, myself included, but none of us is in his league,' he added. Dr Ackner, who is married with two young children, Ben and Emily, has been a partner in the Penryn surgery for about seven years. His wife, Dee, had spoken to him from their home near Falmouth, Dr Ellis said.

Two climbers died in separate accidents as gales swept the Welsh and Scottish mountains. Colette Fleetwood, 29, of Bristol, suffered fatal injuries in a fall on Snowdon.

In Scotland, Richard Gleed, 21, from Altringham, Cheshire died after he plunged through a snow hole and landed in a freezing mountain stream in Glencoe.

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Designer

£32969 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Engineer

£35000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Data Engineer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence