RAF personnel among avalanche dead

Free Press Series: Three people have died after an avalanche in the Chalamain Gap area of the Cairngorms Three people have died after an avalanche in the Chalamain Gap area of the Cairngorms

Two of the three people who died after an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands were RAF personnel, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The three were airlifted from the Chalamain Gap area of the Cairngorms to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary shortly after 12.30pm on Thursday.

A man and a woman died on Thursday night and another man died in the early hours of Friday morning, Northern Constabulary said.

An MoD spokesman said: "MoD can confirm that two RAF personnel were killed following an avalanche in the Cairngorms yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those who have lost their lives. Next of kin have been informed."

Police, Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team, search and rescue dogs, RAF Lossiemouth's rescue team and a helicopter were involved in the operation on Thursday.

Two parties of six were on the mountain when the avalanche struck, with nine people able to walk off unhurt.

David Rutledge, the training officer for Cairngorm Mountain Rescue team, was involved in controlling the operation from the team's base. He said: "We started mobilising within 15 minutes of the call coming through. We had a helicopter here incredibly quickly. We had three doctors available straightaway who were able to get to the scene."

"This was a fairly contained scenario. We were able to deal with an incident which was relatively close to the roadside, within 2km of the ski road and in a very contained area. From that perspective, no search was necessary. The key aspect to this was to get people there as quickly as possible."

Two helicopters from RAF Lossiemouth, Rescue 137 and 138, were involved in the operation, he said.

He added: "Snow conditions would have been affected massively by the weather we've had over the last few days, but, significantly, temperatures were increasing throughout the day and that will have had an effect on what was going on. Wind speeds were quite high and all of those things have a contributing factor to the snow conditions."

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