Cairngorms avalanche: Police name RAF victim

Rimon Than Sqn Ldr Rimon Than was described as an experienced climber

Police have named one of the three people who died after an avalanche in the Highlands on Thursday afternoon.

Sqn Ldr Rimon Than, 33, of RAF Valley, North Wales, who was part of the RAF Mountaineering Association, was killed in the incident in the Cairngorms.

Another man and a woman died after the avalanche in the Chalamain Gap area.

The woman was also a member of the RAF Mountaineering Association. The third fatality was a student on a course at the Glenmore Lodge outdoor centre.

Nine other people who were on the mountain at the time were unhurt.

Investigators cannot say how the avalanche was triggered.

Sqn Ldr Than, who was born in Burma, and the woman who died were part of a group of off-duty RAF personnel on an expedition in the Cairngorms at the time of the avalanche.

FROM THE CAIRNGORMS

It might seem strange but even after nine deaths in the Scottish mountains this year, there is little appetite here for anything to change.

Those who go up into the mountains say they know the risks and are prepared to continue taking them.

Today, experts from the Scottish Avalanche Information Service were climbing up the very slope where the avalanche swept three people to their deaths.

They were measuring and assessing, weighing up the risks to inform other climbers and walkers who are determined to continue venturing into the wilds.

The beauty of the landscape is what draws people here. It lures some towards tragedy and there will be more calls for something to be done.

But on these slopes, most people say those calls should be resisted and the mountains should remain open.

The young man who died was part of a second group of climbers, taking part in a winter mountaineering skills course, who were also caught in the avalanche.

The principal of the outdoor centre, Bob Kinnaird, said it was the first fatality at Glenmore Lodge for more than 40 years.

Northern Constabulary said the next of kin of the two as yet unnamed climbers had asked for time to inform friends and family before more details were released to the public.

Sqn Ldr Than was also a member of the Army Mountaineering Association (AMA) and a qualified doctor.

He was described as an experienced climber.

Sqn Ldr Than had recently returned from an AMA expedition to China in December 2012, where his team had become the first to reach the peak of the 5,640m (18,504 ft) Wupingfeng mountain in Sichuan province.

Group Captain Adrian Hill, his station commander at Royal Air Force Valley, said: "Sqn Ldr Rimon Than was the senior medical officer at RAF Valley and was a fine, dedicated officer and doctor.

"He was passionate about mountaineering and his death is a tragedy. He was well respected and popular, and will be sorely missed by all personnel at RAF Valley. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."

Wing Commander Ian Richardson, the chairman of the RAF Mountaineering Association, described him as a "unique and talented individual", adding he was a "fine doctor and a passionate mountaineer".

Avalanche location map Avalanche location map

Guide: How avalanches happen

The avalanche happened at about 12:30 on Thursday.

The search operation involved mountain rescue teams from Cairngorm, Glenmore and Lossiemouth, search dogs, members of Cairngorm Mountain Ski Patrol and two RAF rescue helicopters.

The three climbers were found buried in the snow and were all airlifted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Northern Constabulary Area Inspector Murdoch MacLeod said: "Clearly this is a very tragic incident and our thoughts are currently with the families of those who have lost their lives.

"It is important that we pay tribute to work of the rescuers who responded extremely quickly to the incident and located all three climbers in a short space of time.

"All three were airlifted to Aberdeen, but sadly they died as a result of their injuries."

Avalanche in the Chalamain Gap area The avalanche happened at about 12:30 on Thursday in the Chalamain Gap area

First Minister Alex Salmond offered his sympathy and said: "This is another stark and tragic reminder of the dangers on our mountains."

The Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) had issued forecasts for Thursday warning of a period of avalanche activity overnight in the Cairngorms and a considerable hazard throughout the day.

It is the latest in a series of avalanche incidents in the Scottish Highlands in the past few weeks.

Four experienced climbers were killed in an avalanche in Glencoe on 19 January. Two of their party survived, with one suffering serious injuries.

Two climbers escaped unhurt after being caught in a snow slide in Coire an Lochain, also in the Cairngorms, on the same weekend.

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