Climber tells how avalanche swept friends to their deaths

Four killed in Highlands as big freeze continues to cause chaos across Britain

A climber who survived an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands that killed four of his friends spoke last night about his "sadness" and "deep regret" at their deaths.

Three of the climbers who died in the accident on the mountain near Glencoe on Saturday have now been named by police.

The Northern Constabulary said Tom Chesters, 28, a PhD student at the University of Hull, Una Finnegan, 25, a junior doctor from Co Antrim and Christopher Bell, 24, who was studying in Oban, perished. A fourth victim, a woman, also died, while another 24-year-old woman is critically ill with serious head injuries in the Southern General Hospital, Glasgow.

The sixth surviving climber, who is believed to have jumped clear of the collapsing snow and anchored an ice axe into firmer ground, issued a statement yesterday: "On Saturday, five of my friends and I were descending a mountain in Glencoe named Stob Coire nam Beith in an area known as Church Door Buttress when the party was swept away by a snow avalanche.

"It is with much sadness and deep regret that some of my friends have died as a result.

"All in the group loved the mountains and are experienced winter walkers.

"My sincere thanks go to the members of the public, mountain rescue teams and other emergency services who assisted."

The four climbers plunged around 1,000 feet before being buried under up to two metres of snow.

Andy Nelson, deputy head of Glencoe Mountain Rescue, who led the rescue, described being caught in an avalanche as "a brutal experience".

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