Three British skiers survive avalanche after helicopter crashes and slides down Swiss Alps

Brewery heir Edward Courage has been rescued after five hours in avalanche ordeal (ES Composite / AP)
Brewery heir Edward Courage has been rescued after five hours in avalanche ordeal (ES Composite / AP)

Three British skiers survived an avalanche after their helicopter crashed and slid down the Swiss Alps, killing three others.

Edward Courage and young brothers Teddy and Guy Hitchens survived when their aircraft slid along the slopes in Verbier, The Telegraph reported.

The helicopter was being piloted by dad-of-two Jerome Lovey, who was killed in the crash, while young skier James Goff and their New Hampshire-born guide Adam George also died.

The group had been due to land at the peak of the Petit Combin mountain in Verbier on Tuesday morning when the helicopter slid despite the “perfect powder” conditions.

Valais canton police said: “Having reached the summit of a mountain culminating at 3,668m above sea level, for a reason that the investigation will have to determine, the aircraft slid down the northern slope.”

A skier who arrived at the summit shortly after told the paper: “We landed after them on the south side of Le Petit Combin and saw the avalanche. It was horrific.

“We couldn’t make out the helicopter, it was consumed in the avalanche. We heard of the crash over the radio. We were advised to get safely off the mountain.”

Mr Courage is said to have saved Teddy and Guy  by pushing them out of the helicopter as it slid off the summit.

However, he plunged an estimated 500m down into a crevasse and was stranded for five hours before being winched to safety.

The Hitchens’ parents said: “Our thoughts are with the families of James, Adam and the pilot for their appalling losses.

“Ted was released from hospital today on crutches. Guy is still in hospital. No operations currently required but severely beaten up and bed-bound.”

A funeral for victim Adam George will be held next week, while a donations group has been set up for Adam’s wife Caroline George-Ware and daughter Olivia.

An investigation has been opened into the incident by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office as well as the Swiss Safety Investigation Service.

It comes after a US teenager and two other people were killed in an avalanche near the Swiss resort of Zermatt on Monday.

That avalanche occurred at about 2pm local time on Monday in an off-piste area of the Riffelberg, above the resort and below the famous Matterhorn peak.