THE British man who died after falling almost 2,000ft to his death while skiing off-piste in the French Alps has been named as 28-year-old David Tapsfield.
Tapsfield was swept down a mountain near Chamonix after a fall triggered an avalanche while skiing with his friend Lorne Cameron, from Glasgow, who survived uninjured.
The man was ski-touring at about 3,100 metres (10,170ft) when a snow cornice – an overhanging edge of snow on a ridge – collapsed under his feet, triggering an avalanche which swept him down the mountain.
Mr Cameron frantically dug his friend out of the snow and tried to resuscitate him. He alerted the emergency services who airlifted Mr Tapsfield to hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival.
A Chamonix police spokesman said: “A cornice ruptured and the person fell a very long distance – about 600 metres.
“The fall triggered the slide of a huge mass of snow or an avalanche.
“The man’s friend found him under the snow and pulled him out. He gave him first aid and the man was taken by helicopter to hospital but sadly he died.”
French police have opened an investigation to determine the cause of the accident and said the victim would not be named until his family had been informed. According to local authorities, there have been 13 deaths in 11 incidents so far this season.
Snow cornices are viewed as being particularly dangerous during sunny weather and the surrounding area has experienced warm conditions during the past week.
Mr Tapsfield was described by friends as “highly popular and very down-to-earth”.
He had moved to Chamonix a few years ago to pursue his love of the mountains and set up a successful sausage-making business selling his wares to local restaurants and pubs.
As a teenager David was part of the Football Development Scheme for 16 to 19-year-olds at Tyne Metropolitan College in North Tyneside.
In 2005 he won a scholarship at Lafeyatte College in New Jersey, USA, one of the top six colleges in the country, to study and play the game.
Ian Bogie, ex-Gateshead and Stockport manager, who helped run the scheme at the college, knew David and is devastated by the news of his death.
Ian, of Tynemouth, said: “I am absolutely shocked. I can’t believe this has happened to David. He was a very talented footballer and he was on our scheme.
“He was genuinely a smashing lad and I’m so shocked.”
The accident is the second fatal incident involving a British skier in the past two days. On Monday, a 23-year-old man from south London was killed after crashing into a snow cannon when he lost control going down a black run piste in the Austrian Alps. The man, only identified as “Alexander O”, had refused to wear a crash helmet, his mother told police, and died at the scene after hitting his head on a metal pole on the snow cannon in St Anton.
Meanwhile, two British tourists also died in Alpine accidents in Switzerland earlier this month. A 65-year-old man struck a rock while skiing off-piste in the resort of Vercorin. And a 39-year-old man was hit by an avalanche in the resort of Col de Forclaz and buried under 12ft of snow.
Formula 1 racing legend Michael Schumacher is still in an artificial coma in a Grenoble hospital after a serious accident while skiing in the French resort of Meribel on 29 December.