1. ITV Report

Climbers from York killed in French avalanche

Two of the three people who died in the major avalanche near Chamonix in the French Alps have been named as Steve Barber, 47, and John Taylor, 48. They were both from York and had been raising funds for a local hospice.

The friends lived in the same street in Upper Poppleton, a village to the north-west of York. They both had children at Poppleton Ousebank School.

John’s wife Karine Taylor said: “We are all truly devastated about this loss. John always had a keen interest in outdoor activities taking up mountaineering in 1998 and was a highly regarded and very active member of mountain rescue teams himself."

Donna Rogers, Steve Barber's long term partner, said: “As might be expected, the family and I are all devastated at the loss of Steve and his close friend John. He always wanted to climb Mont Blanc, an ambition that this trip was to fulfil."

The third British man who lost his life after being hit by the massive wall of snow on Thursday was Roger Payne, one of the UK's most respected climbers and former general secretary of the British Mountaineering Council.

Mont Blanc range near Chamonix in the French Alps Credit: ITV

A total of nine climbers were killed as they traversed Mont Maudit (translated as Cursed Mountain) in the Mont Blanc range near Chamonix. Among the other victims were three Germans, two Spaniards and one Swiss climber.

They were part of a 28 strong group which left a climbing hut to attempt the route, described by local guides as the second most popular to the top of Mont Blanc, in the early hours of yesterday (Thursday) morning.

The alarm was raised at 5.20 am local time by one of the injured climbers. French authorities were told that a "slab" avalanche had hit several groups of mountaineers who were roped together on the northern face of Mont Maudit at 13,123ft (4,000m). The mass of snow was 20m deep and 100m long.

A church service is to be held in Chamonix tomorrow afternoon in memory of the dead climbers.

Search teams comb the mountain side on the Mont Blanc range near Chamonix Credit: ITV

Parents at Poppleton Ousebank School were told in a letter from headteacher Estelle O'Hara: "It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that two of the climbers killed in yesterday's avalanche in the French Alps were parents from Poppleton Ousebank - Steve Barber, father of Frankie in Year 5 and John Taylor, father of Emma in Year 5 and Louise in Year 3.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to both Donna Rogers and Karine Taylor who have both lost their life-long partners.

"We understand that the climb was to raise money for St Leonard's Hospice and so we will be collecting on their behalf."

British mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington also paid tribute, saying that Mr Payne, who had taken part in more than 20 expeditions to the world's highest and most challenging peaks, was "a very special person".

Foreign Secretary William Hague has sent his condolences to the friends and families of those affected, saying he was "very saddened" by the tragedy.

All those believed to have been missing have been accounted for, but police are continuing to search the area.

Two other Britons, including climber Dave Compton, 41, from Ellesmere Port, reported missing following the avalanche were confirmed safe and well after presenting themselves to police in Chamonix yesterday evening.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said: "The avalanche was caused by heavy snow, which was triggered by a strong wind. This was a major danger on a mountain which has been covered by snow. The risk is known.

"We know that the climbers tried to navigate to traverse the mountain initially and it is difficult to foresee such kind of avalanche. We were unable to realise that such a thing would have happened."