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POLICE

American tourist dies in Fribourg balloon crash

A 55-year-old American man died and four others were seriously injured on Tuesday when a hot-air balloon crashed to the ground after hitting a power line in the canton of Fribourg, police said.

American tourist dies in Fribourg balloon crash
File photo: carolynconner/Flickr

The man's 55-year-old wife, their two adult daughters and the 65-year-old Swiss pilot were hurt when the balloon fell about 50 metres (160 feet) near Montbovon, cantonal police said.

The family from California were vacationing in the region of the mountain resort of Gstaad, in the canton of Bern, the SDA news service reported.

The balloon had taken off from Château d'Oex, which is well known for its annual balloon festival.

At 8.35am, shortly before it was due to land near Monbovon, it hit a power line, police spokesman Pierre-André Waeber said.

The American man died on the spot despite rescuers' attempts at resuscitation.

The Malibu Times said he was a descendant of Malibu's founding family.

His wife and two daughters aged 20 and 24 were transported by helicopter to hospitals in Bern and Lausanne, and the pilot was taken away in an ambulance.

Air accident investigators have launched an investigation.

The balloon belonged to the five-star Grand Hôtel Park in Gstaad.

The pilot was an "experienced and recognized balloonist," the hotel said in a statement.

"All our thoughts go to the family and the friends of the victims of this terrible accident."

The SDA news service said the site where the accident occurred is considered safe by balloon pilots.

There were several power lines but these were clearly visible, pilot Raphael Zuccollo said.

Zuccollo said conditions on Tuesday morning had been perfect and visibility had been good.

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POLICE

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”

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