Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Sunday, 25 January 2009

Brothers among avalanche victims

Eamonn and John Murphy
Eamonn and John Murphy [left to right] were keen climbers

The three climbers who were killed in an avalanche on a mountain near Glencoe have been named.

Two Northern Ireland brothers - Eamonn Murphy, 61, of Carrickfergus and John Murphy, 63, of Portrush - died with Brian Murray of Monifeith, Tayside.

The trio were caught in the avalanche on Buchaille Etive Mor on Saturday.

Climbers have been warned of a high risk of avalanches, with the Sport Scotland website giving a category four risk, on a scale of one to five.

Northern Constabulary is also advising climbers that the risk will remain high for the next couple of days.

The edge of the slope broke away and we were taken down an avalanche, some of us rode out the top of it and others got buried
Tom Richardson
Mountain walker

Helicopters were called to Buchaille Etive Mor at 1200 GMT on Saturday.

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.

At teatime on Sunday, the police confirmed that there were three dead, including the two brothers and Mr Murray, 46.

A statement released by the Murphy family said they were devastated by their loss.

It said: "John is survived by his wife, two children and grandchildren; Eamonn by his wife, three children and grandchildren; they will be sorely missed by family and friends alike who loved them dearly.

"The two brothers died doing something they loved and both Eamonn and John will be remembered fondly as loving people who lived their lives with passion."

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

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

Nine climbers involved
Two separate climbing parties
Five uninjured
One suffers shoulder injury
Three die
Glencoe Mountain Rescue leader, John Grieve, said: "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."

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.

The RAF helicopter was from RAF Lossiemouth and the Royal Navy aircraft from HMS Gannet.

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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