Page last updated at 18:14 GMT, Sunday, 25 January 2009

Family praises climbing brothers

Eamon and John Murphy
Eamon and John Murphy died in the avalanche

The family of the two men from Northern Ireland killed in an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands have said they were "experienced climbers".

Brothers Eamonn Murphy, 61, from Carrickfergus and John Murphy, 63, who lived in Portrush, died in the tragedy at Buchaille Etive Mor near Glencoe.

Scot Brian Murray, 46, from Monifeith, Tayside, was also killed.

"They had been walking in mountainous areas all their lives," read a Murphy family statement.

"They were not the sort of people to take unnecessary risks and were on an approved trail as part of an organised group when this accident happened.

"The emergency services have said that the group had done everything right and were wearing the correct clothing and carrying the right equipment for the conditions.

"We want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the group who tried to get them out of the snow and also to express our sympathies to the family of the other man who died."

Helicopters were called to the scene at about 1200 GMT on Saturday.

Buchaile Etive Mor, from Undiscovered Scotland website
The incident happened on Buachaille Etive Mor

Nine people, in at least two separate parties, were caught up in the avalanche.

Two people were taken off the mountain by an RAF rescue helicopter which flew them to Belford Hospital in Fort William. One man was pronounced dead on arrival and the second died later.

A third body was found later in the snow.

Walker Tom Richardson survived the avalanche and called the rescue teams.

"As I got to the top of the pass, the edge of the slope - it wasn't corniced and broke away, and we were taken down an avalanche. Some of us rode out the top of it and others got buried," he said.

Glencoe Mountain Rescue leader, John Grieve, praised the work of their fellow walkers.

"The first two had been dug out by the party themselves, they did very well, they located one of the buried friends and started resuscitation.

"Then using their ice axes as probes they quickly located the second member of the party and dug him out as well," he said.

The weather changes very quickly, you can have very warm conditions followed by storms and wintery conditions within a few hours.
Mountaineer, Dr Jeremy Windsor

An RAF helicopter took the men to hospital while a second Royal Navy helicopter dropped off rescuers who made their way on foot to locate the third man.

Mr Grieve said it took 20 minutes of probing the snow to find him.

Another person is being treated for a shoulder injury while five others were rescued from the mountain.

Mountaineer Dr Jeremy Windsor, who knows the area well, said: "The weather changes very quickly, you can have very warm conditions followed by storms and wintery conditions within a few hours.

"Unfortunately avalanches can be killers very quickly and we know that just a few minutes of burial can lead to a high level of deaths."

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