Police hunt skiers who set off deadly avalanche

A GROUP of skiers responsible for setting off a fatal avalanche in the Italian Alps killing three people and injuring six others were yesterday being hunted by police.

The group are being blamed for triggering off the deadly slide of several hundred tons of snow which engulfed a party of fellow skiers who were below them.

Mountain rescue teams spent several hours digging through the snow in a frantic bid for survivors and a helicopter was used to airlift those more seriously hurt to a nearby hospital.

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The tragedy happened on Sunday afternoon on Mount Olano at an altitude of 2,267 metres in the Valtellina area of the Alps, 60 miles from Milan. Yesterday police blamed the tragedy on skiers who were 300 metres above the party.

A police spokesman at nearby Sondrio said: "This was caused by the imprudence of another group of skiers. They cut across the fresh snow to reach the top and as a result triggered off the avalanche.

"There were three young men and an older man with a beard and it would be better for them if they handed themselves in. This was a tragedy that could have been avoided. There were avalanche warnings in the area at the time and instead of cutting across the mountain they should have stopped. "

Survivor Michele Invernizzi, 40, who was pulled from the snow, said: " There was another party above us and they set off the avalanche."

A spokesman for the local prosecutor, Luisa Russo, said multiple manslaughter charges were being considered.