Two die in Alps as avalanche team's helicopter strikes cable

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The Independent Online

Two people died when a helicopter which was setting off controlled avalanches struck a ski-lift cable and crashed near Chamonix in the French Alps yesterday.

Two people died when a helicopter which was setting off controlled avalanches struck a ski-lift cable and crashed near Chamonix in the French Alps yesterday.

In a separate incident, searches for a missing American skier - who was initially identified as British - continued in the same area of the Grands-Montets massif, near Chamonix, without success.

The maximum avalanche warnings imposed on Tuesday throughout the northern and central Alps were lifted yesterday but officials warned that the danger had not disappeared. Level-five avalanche warnings were issued on Tuesday - rain and wind disturbed fresh snow - but were reduced to level four and three yesterday. The pilot and an avalanche control expert died when the Ecureuil B3 helicopter struck the cable. Witnesses said the cable flexed like a catapult when it was hit and flung the helicopter against the mountain-side. A third man in the helicopter was seriously injured. Despite the reduced avalanche danger in the area, French officials advised skiers yesterday not to go off-piste for at least another two days. The missing American skier, Chris Kedy-Cady, 24 , from Boston, disappeared on Sunday after heading off-piste despite avalanche warnings throughout the area. His female companion, who had refused to leave the marked slopes, raised the alarm when he did not return to their hotel.

Seven off-piste skiers and snowboarders have died in the French Alps since Christmas.

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