French avalanche: Memorial held for victims in Chamonix

Roger Payne, John Taylor and Steve Barber were among nine climbers who died on Mont Maudit

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A memorial service has taken place for the nine climbers killed in Thursday's avalanche in the French Alps.

During the ceremony at the church of St Michel in the ski resort of Chamonix, the names of those who died were read out and a candle lit for them.

Three of those killed were from the UK, three from Germany, two from Spain and one from Switzerland. Twelve other climbers were injured.

Local authorities said it was the deadliest avalanche in recent memory.

The climbers, aged between 33 and 63, were following a route on the slopes of Mont Maudit popular with people heading for the summit of Mont Blanc when the avalanche struck.

"They left us too quickly, like a flame extinguished too soon by a violent gust of wind before it could give its full light," Father Georges Vigliano, the parish priest of Chamonix, told the gathering.

Avalanche victims

  • Stephan Sulla, 40, German
  • Corry Mueller, 41, German
  • Pia Lunzenauer, 33, German
  • Hans Seehlzer, 63, Swiss
  • Joachim Aguado-Marony, 51, Spanish
  • Esteban Martinez-Jibanez, 39, Spanish
  • Roger Payne, 55, British
  • John Taylor, 48, British
  • Stephen Barber, 47, British

One of the victims, Roger Payne, 55, was one of Britain's most respected climbers and a former general-secretary of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC).

The other two British victims, Steve Barber, 47, and John Taylor, 48, were attempting the climb to raise money for St Leonard's Hospice in York.

'Devastated'

Mr Taylor's wife said her husband was an experienced climber.

"We are all truly devastated about this loss," she said. "John had climbed several challenging mountains across the world, including Mont Blanc on two previous occasions.

"He was a highly respected climber and this event represents a significant loss to the UK climbing community."

A survivor, mountain guide Daniel Rossetto, described the moment the avalanche hit as being "trapped in the drum of a washing machine", according to German media reports.

Mont Maudit - meaning the "cursed mountain" - is the third-highest peak in the Mont Blanc massif range, rising to 4,465m (14,649ft). Eight climbers were killed in an avalanche near Mont Maudit in 2008.

Map of avalanche area

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