French teacher faces manslaughter inquiry after avalanche kills students | News | DW | 14.01.2016
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French teacher faces manslaughter inquiry after avalanche kills students

After an avalanche killed two students and a tourist at a French ski slope, authorities want to probe whether the teacher has criminal responsibility. The slope was marked as closed and an avalanche warning was issued.

A French teacher will be investigated for manslaughter for taking students onto a closed ski slope that was then struck by an avalanche, prosecutors said on Thursday. The disaster resulted in the death of two students and a Ukrainian tourist.

"The investigation should determine the psychiatric state of the teacher and his ability to lead a group," said state attorney Jean-Yves Coquillat, though he added that the man would be left alone "for the time being," as Wednesday's avalanche had left him seriously injured and he remained in the hospital on Thursday.

Coquillat said he could not understand how the teacher could lead a school group onto a slope that was closed and had "the usual netting with warnings in several languages, in four languages," meaning the group must have climbed over the netting, indicating they were "fully aware" of what they were doing.

The Bellecombes piste of the Les Deux Alpes ski resort is rated black, the highest difficulty rating in France. It had been closed all season due to lack of snow.

Tragedy struck at 4 pm on Wednesday when an avalanche came down across the slope, killing a 14-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl from the Saint-Exupery school in Lyon, along with a 57-year-old Ukrainian, who was not part of the school group.

Watch video 01:28

Avalanche leaves three dead in French Alps

Dominque Letang, who heads the National Agency for the Study of Snow and Avalanches (ANENA) said the warning level on Wednesday had been set at 3 out of 5.

"In 90 percent of cases, it's the action of a human being that causes an avalanche," said Letang. He added that the group was improperly equipped, as they lacked a probe, shovel, and avalanche transceivers that could have helped rescue crews.

es/jil (AFP, AP)

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