Canyon guides charged

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The Independent Online

Eight members of a Swiss travel agency were charged yesterday with manslaughter through negligence, over the disastrous "canyoning" adventure last year in which 21 people, including three Britons, lost their lives.

Eight members of a Swiss travel agency were charged yesterday with manslaughter through negligence, over the disastrous "canyoning" adventure last year in which 21 people, including three Britons, lost their lives.

The accused include three directors and some of the guides from Adventure World, the company in the resort of Interlaken that organised the trip on 27 July 1999. Three of their colleagues and 18 mostly foreign tourists died.

Police in Bern said in a statement: "They are accused of having led the canyoning trip into the Saxet brook despite the fact that a thunderstorm was breaking over the Saxet valley." Three other guides who took part in the trip have been cleared by the investigation.

Weather reports had forecast reasonably clear skies. The trip went ahead despite water levels in the Saxet brook being higher than usual, dark clouds and a torrential downpour near by. At 4.30pm, the 45 tourists, split into four groups to abseil down 350 metres of waterfall. Within minutes the water began to swell. Those who died were hit suddenly by a cascade of trees, rocks and water. It is thought the victims died within 15 minutes of entering the water before being swept into Lake Brinzer beside Interlaken, where they were found.

The tour company has been criticised for not ensuring its customers were fit enough for its escapades. Adventure World was banned from canyoning but allowed to pursue other extreme activities.

The company closed down earlier this year after a 22-year-old American tourist died bungee jumping. The victim hit the ground at full speed after leaping from a cable car suspended over a car park.

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