British teenager sees avalanche kill triplet brother during ski trip

Austrian police said a guide, who is believed to have been a skier with substantial experience in the resort, will face a criminal investigation

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The Independent Online

A British teenager has been killed in an avalanche in front of one of his brothers while skiing in Austria.

Cameron Bespolka, 16 was engulfed in snow along with his father and a ski guide in the resort of Lech am Arlberg. His triplet brother Nicholas was unhurt but watched the tragedy unfold in front of him as the four skied off-piste, with an experienced guide.

Police said the guide would now face a criminal investigation for not following an authorised route.

The avalanche swept Cameron, his father Kevin, 51 and the guide 150 metres down the mountain, leaving Nicholas watching from the top.

It is believed the skiers were all equipped with avalanche airbags, a safety device that skiers can deploy in the event of an avalanche, but they failed to prevent them being  buried.

The 39-year-old guide, who suffered minor injuries, was the first to surface from the snow and immediately began a rescue operation.

He pulled himself free and made an emergency call, before starting to work with the surviving teenager to look for his family members.

Kevin Bespolka, a City banker was pulled alive badly injured and flown to hospital, but Cameron died at the scene.

The remaining members of the family - Corinne Bespolka, 53, the boys' triplet sister Megan and Sienna, their 12-year-old sister, are believed to have been at their hotel when the accident happened.

The incident occurred at 1.24pm on Tuesday as the group headed to the small ski resort of Stierlochbach.

Police said the route the group had been taking when they were hit was not an authorised one and confirmed the ski instructor was being investigated on charges of “negligence leading to serious injury with fatal consequences”.

At the time of the accident the region had issued only a category one avalanche warning, meaning there was a very low risk of an avalanche.

But experts said the category was deceptive and it could nevertheless mean a risk of sudden avalanches.

Mr Bespolka is in intensive care with knee and lung injuries, while his son Nicholas is being treated for trauma by a psychologist.

Pia Herbst, from the Lech am Arlberg tourism board in Austria, defended the ski guide. She said: “He is a very good guide and he has a lot of experience.

“He has the highest level of education you can have in skiing and he didn’t do anything wrong. It was a normal day to go for a tour, and unfortunately it was an accident with avalanche risk ‘one’, which is not high at all.

“It was a very, very sad  accident.”

In February 2012 Prince Friso, the second son of the then-Queen of the Netherlands, Beatrix, was hit by an avalanche skiing off-piste at the same resort. He was left brain-damaged and died 18 months later aged 44.