Avalanche death: Friend tried to save skier

Lorne Cameron
Lorne Cameron
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A “courageous” Scots skier dug desperately to free his friend who had been swept 2,000 feet down a mountainside in the French Alps, it emerged last night.

Police in France yesterday praised Lorne Cameron, a Glasgow businessman, for his courageous but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to save the life of David Tapsfield, 28, high on Mont Buet in Chamonix.

The pair were ski-touring just beneath the summit when a snow cornice, an overhanging edge of snow, collapsed under Mr Tapsfield, triggering an avalanche which swept him down the mountainside.

Yesterday police told how Mr Cameron managed to ski down the mountain after his friend and, using a transceiver, was able to locate where Mr Tapsfield was buried. Mr Cameron then set about digging out his friend and tried to resuscitate him before calling the emergency services.

According to reports, Mr Tapsfield had suffered a heart attack, as well as sustaining other injuries. He was flown by helicopter to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

A police spokesman said of Mr Cameron: “He was undeniably very courageous. A cornice ruptured and the person fell a very long distance, about 600 metres. The fall triggered an avalanche which Lorne saw and he was the first on scene to try and rescue his friend.

“It meant skiing over the avalanche debris and then searching for him with his avalanche transceiver. He found him under the snow and pulled him out. He gave him first aid and then the man was taken by helicopter to hospital, but sadly he died.”

The accident happened on Tuesday afternoon on Mont Buet which, at 10,158 feet, is one of the highest peaks in the popular area of Chamonix.

Mr Cameron moved from his native Glasgow to Chamonix four years ago after initially setting up a company in Scotland, Boax Clothing, which sells customised mountaineering gear made in the region. The company website said: “Since 2010, Boax has been based in Chamonix, where our passion for life in the mountains and the sports we love constantly inspire us as the brand continues to grow.”

His friend Mr Tapsfield, also lived in the area, where he provided food supplies to local bars and restaurants. He had moved to France to spend more time pursuing his passion for skiing and mountaineering.

Yesterday he was described by friends as “highly popular and very down to earth”.

As a teenager, Mr Tapsfield was part of a football development scheme for 16 to 19-year-olds at Tyne Metropolitan College in North Tyneside. In 2005 he won a scholarship to Lafeyatte College in New Jersey in the US, to study and play the game.

Yesterday, a top mountain guide said the conditions in parts of the Alps were extremely dangerous. Martin Chester, director of training at Plas Y Brenin, the national mountain centre in Snowdonia, said: “The snow, especially off-piste, has had a horrendous foundation.

“Anywhere near ridges is incredibly dangerous. There is a terrible instability that your average skier wouldn’t be able to recognise. And the tricky thing is, the risk is almost invisible. My advice is fairly simple – read the detail in the avalanche bulletins.”