Briton died in train fire after act of kindness

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Rescue workers found the body of an English man among the dead in a ski resort in the Austrian Alps yesterday.

Rescue workers found the body of an English man among the dead in a ski resort in the Austrian Alps yesterday.

Kevin Challis, aged 40, from Bridport in Dorset, who met his wife on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier, died on Saturday in the fire that killed at least 159 on a funicular train.

Mr Challis was supposed to be with his eight-year-old daughter, Siobhan, on a train that made it up the mountain safely. He was on his way to work as a ski instructor, while his daughter was to attend the children's ski club. But he gave up his place to an old man, and waited for the next train - the one that was engulfed in flames minutes after he boarded.

Siobhan waited at the top for her father. But his train never came, only the thick smoke that suffocated him as he tried to escape from the tunnel. His Austrian wife, Christl, said yesterday: "She was at the top and she saw the 'steam' going out and she was worried that something was wrong.''

She spoke as teams of rescuers dragged some of thebodies from the wreckage. Austrian authorities have begun a criminal investigation into possible negligence and grounded funicular railway trains similar to the one in Kaprun, at the foot of the Kitzsteinhorn.

"Just write that he was beautiful," Ms Challis said, standing by the house they shared where a candle burnt and a Union flag was blown by the wind. "Kevin made a good name for England in Kaprun. Everybody in the town loved him."

They met 10 years ago when Mr Challis was an instructor visiting Kaprun. He left. "Two weeks later he came back, and stayed for ever," said Ms Challis, also a ski instructor.

Like most of the passengers, Mr Challis had broken free of the train and run up the sloping tunnel, but was suffocated by smoke. The survivors ran down, through the flames.

Mr Challis had been destined for the family building firm in Dorset until a lesson on a dry-ski slope proved a turning point. He died, Ms Challis said, on his way to a job he loved. His widow put it simply: "He was where he wanted to be."

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