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Search called off for missing Swiss skier after mountain tragedy

Helicopters during the search operation in the Tete Blanche sector of the Swiss Alps (POLICE CANTONALE VALAISANNE/AFP)
Helicopters during the search operation in the Tete Blanche sector of the Swiss Alps (POLICE CANTONALE VALAISANNE/AFP)

A search for the final missing member of a group of six skiers trapped last weekend in the Swiss Alps has been called off, police said on Thursday.

A search party had already recovered the bodies of five of the people who were caught in severe weather on the 3,710 metre-high Tete Blanche mountain on Saturday, on the Zermatt-Arolla path.

They were London-educated former banker Jean-Vincent Moix, and four of his family members.

The experienced skiers reportedly “froze to death” after trying to build a cave to protect themselves from the elements, according to rescuers.

Search and rescue helicopters have spent days combing the area to find the sixth person, a 28-year-old woman, who police said put in the original emergency call to say the group were in trouble.

"After consulting with her family, the search has now been stopped," police from the canton of Valais said in a statement on Thursday.

Jean-Vincent Moix
Jean-Vincent Moix

The five other skiers were found dead near the famous Matterhorn mountain on Sunday.

Among the dead was Jean-Vincent Moix, an alumnus of Westminster University and a keen mountaineer, who had recently been elected as a councillor of the town of Vex in the Alps.

Mayor of Vex Sebastien Menoud said: “It is such a huge tragedy to lose a colleague on the local council.

“Our thoughts are with him, his family and those around him and we express our deepest condolences to them.

“One knows that it is an immeasurable pain that his family is now confronted with.”

Police captain Marc Moix, an officer with the local police force in Valais, was also among the skiers who died on the Tete Blanche mountain.

David Moix (Facebook)
David Moix (Facebook)

He was the cousin of the two brothers Jean-Vincent and David Moix. Another brother and an uncle were also killed.

The family attempted to build a snow cave to shield them from the storm but died after being exposed to deadly cold temperatures as they fought for their lives.

Lawyer David Moix also lived in Vex, a small village in the Swiss canton of Valais.

Family friend Lucas Nanchen, posted on Facebook: “Why is it always the best ones leave first?

“David (like his brothers) was the epitome of selflessness, always listening. David was very generous. Lowkey he never came forward and yet he could have.

“The mountains of his region, which he knew by heart and cherished so much, took him away.”The group, aged from 21 to 58, had left Zermatt on Saturday morning and were aiming to reach Arolla, near the Matterhorn mountain, when the deadly storm swept through.

Anjan Truffer, head of rescue at Air Zermatt who led the rescue operation, told Swiss media: “The picture we found was ugly...We saw that the ski tourers had tried to build a cave and protect themselves from the wind.'

“The ski tourers froze to death at altitude, disorientated.”