Airline pilot named as avalanche victim

A British airline pilot has been named as one of four people killed in an avalanche in the French Alps.

Captain James Whalley, 32, who worked for easyJet, died in the popular ski resort of Val d'Isere yesterday along with three other skiers, believed to be two French citizens and a Swede, who were caught in the avalanche.

A fifth person survived after being pulled from the snow.

Xavier Idier, an Interior Ministry official in the Alpine Savoie region, said a 50-strong rescue team, including four doctors, attempted to save the skiers but could not reach them for 50 minutes after the avalanche.

He said: "The cause of death was the effect of the snow. Without oxygen it is difficult to survive for more than seven minutes under the snow.

"The weather conditions were good but four days ago there was heavy rain at high altitude which could have been the reason for the avalanche."

He said the victims were equipped with avalanche transceivers and airbag vests.

Captain Whalley was from Guernsey but had been living in Hove, East Sussex.

The Evening Standard in London said he travelled to Val d'Isere on January 4 where he has a home, to spend two months skiing before driving back to the UK with his girlfriend Holly Hill.

Ms Hill, 23, told the newspaper the couple had been in touch the night before he died.

"He told me he loved me and was going to bed early. He loved skiing, and always said if he had to go he wished it would be something like this," she said.

A Foreign Office spokesman said today: "We can confirm the death of a British national in Val d'Isere on January 11.

"Next of kin have been informed and we are providing consular assistance."

A spokeswoman for easyJet said: "We were shocked and saddened to hear of the untimely death of Captain James Whalley.

"Our thoughts are with his family, friends and easyJet colleagues at this difficult time."