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Avalanche: Teacher Faces Manslaughter Charge

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A teacher is being investigated for involuntary manslaughter after his students were swept away by a deadly avalanche in the French Alps.

Three people were killed and several others badly injured when the avalanche hit the group of school pupils skiing on the piste, which had been closed to the public all season due to lack of snow.

Two of those who died were pupils aged 14 and 16, while a 57-year-old Ukrainian skier who was not with the group also lost his life.

Three other pupils suffered cardiac arrest in the disaster, which happened at the Les Deux Alpes resort on Wednesday.

Investigators are trying to establish why the sports teacher took 10 of his students to the closed slope.

Police are questioning him at a hospital in the south-central city of Grenoble, prosecutor Jean-Yves Coquillat said. 

He is being treated for serious injuries from the avalanche.

The ski slope was closed by a large net which had a clear sign in different languages, but the group intentionally stepped over it to get to the closed slope, Mr Coquillat said.

"This is not inattention," the prosecutor said.

"It is in full knowledge that the group moved into this place and this closed slope."

The prosecutor said further investigations "will also seek to determine the mental state of the teacher and his ability to supervise a group".

Another French official, Jean-Paul Bonnetain, suggested the pupils may have skied ahead of the teacher.

Mr Bonnetain, the top administrative official for the Isere region, told i-Tele: "Initial witness accounts describe students passing ahead of the leader."

Some of the pupils had asked another teacher on the skip trip if they could go on the shut slope, but that teacher refused, according to the prosecutor.

Mr Coquillat also said a large amount of snow fell on the resort on the previous days and "probably several hundred" skiers were on the closed slope on Wednesday.

The group of pupils and their teachers were from the St Exupery college in Lyon. They were on a week's holiday in the area.

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