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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 February 2006, 15:43 GMT
Climb couple 'died from exposure'
Kate Stokes, 29, from Southampton
Kate Stokes, 29, of Southampton, died on her way to hospital
A couple who died after becoming stranded in a blizzard on a Spanish mountain are thought to have died from exposure, the Foreign Office has said.

Robert Rippengal, 39, from Cambridge and Kate Stokes, 29, from Southampton, were climbing in the Picos de Europa mountain range.

A search began after they raised the alarm by calling a friend on Saturday.

When they were located on Sunday, Mr Rippengal was already dead. Ms Stokes died as she was taken to hospital.

BBC map showing Picos de Europa

Rescuers had apparently made contact with the couple, who told them they had found shelter.

However, it seems they decided to leave the shelter and Mr Rippengal suffered a bad fall.

Rescuers were forced to leave Mr Rippengal's body on the mountain and have still not been able to retrieve it due to severe weather conditions, according to Mr Rippengal's sister, Emma.

Ms Rippengal said: "The rescuers found them both but he was already dead."

"She was still alive but she died on the way to hospital."

Treacherous

The family described Mr Rippengal as an "immensley cheerful, energetic, enthusiastic and very clever man."

"He was lovely," said Ms Rippengal.

The Picos de Europa range in northern Spain is a national park and popular with tourists for walking, trekking and bird-watching, but can be treacherous in bad weather.

Mr Rippengal was a founding director of Econergy, a company based near Sandy in Bedfordshire involved in designing and operating wood-fuelled boiler plants.

Ms Stokes worked for a conservation body called Fauna and Flora International, which offers grants and funding to environmental projects.


SEE ALSO:
Climbers die in Spanish blizzard
20 Feb 06 |  Cambridgeshire


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