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Ski boy killed in Austria avalanche
A British teenager has been killed and his father seriously injured in an avalanche while skiing in Austria.
The 16-year-old boy, who was skiing with his father, twin brother and an experienced ski guide, was buried under an avalanche at the resort of Lech am Arlberg, local police have confirmed.
His brother escaped but his 51-year-old father was also buried. He was severely injured in the incident and remains in hospital in the nearby town of Feldkirch, police said.
The father and sons, who were visiting the exclusive Austrian resort from Winchester, Hampshire, were taking part in a ski lesson when the avalanche began yesterday.
Austrian police said the instructor, who is believed to have been a skier with substantial experience in the resort, will face a criminal investigation.
"They were with an instructor and when they were skiing downwards an avalanche was accidentally triggered," a police spokeswoman said.
"The father and his boy were buried. The ski guide was able to get away from the avalanche and immediately after he called rescue teams. He then started trying to free the two who were buried. The rescue team finally rescued the father and got the boy out some time later.
"Father and son are still in hospital and you can imagine the mental condition of the other son. It will take some time before we have some more information about them.
"The instructor will face a criminal investigation. It will be investigated if he could have or should have avoided the accident. He was a guide, so there should have been no problem. The whole group was properly equipped with avalanche equipment."
Rescue workers later found that the father and son's emergency anti-avalanche airbags had been used successfully , but failed to save the 16-year-old's life.
The spokeswoman continued: "The father and son activated the so-called 'avalanche airbags', but they were buried anyway. The equipment is not a guarantee of safety.
"There was an avalanche warning in place. In Austria we have four different warning types - 'one' for the lowest and 'four' is the most serious. We had 'one' at this time.
"In Austria we have avalanches going down quite often. Unfortunately, year to year, there are always a few avalanches that bury people. Thank God, most people, we release them alive. This is the first one with one dying this year."
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed that a Briton had died and another was seriously injured in the resort.
A spokesman said: "We can confirm the death of a British national and the hospitalisation of a British national on December 17 in Lech, Austria.
"We are providing consular assistance at this difficult time."
Pia Herbst, from the Lech am Arlberg Tourism Board in Austria, defended the 39-year-old ski guide.
She said: "He is a very good guide and he has a lot of experience. He has the highest level of education you can have in skiing and he didn't do anything wrong.
"It was a normal day to go for a tour, and unfortunately it was an accident with avalanche risk 'one', which is not high at all. Still something can happen. It was a very, very sad accident.
"The guide has worked at the resort for a long, long time. He is very known, a very good guide. He earns his living as a ski guide. He has been at the resort for 15 to 20 years."