The UK mother and son’s family devastated by Alps avalanche ‘filled with indescribable sorrow’

Kate Vokes, aged 54, and Archie Vokes, aged 22, from Manchester, were tragically killed while skiing off-piste near Mont Blanc.

The family of a mother and son who were victims of an avalanche in the French Alps expressed their profound heartbreak at the devastating incident. The avalanche occurred on 28 December in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, near Mont Blanc, sweeping through an off-piste area.

In an official statement, the family said, “We are utterly shattered by the loss of our beloved Kate and Archie. Words cannot capture the magnitude of our grief or the void left in our lives due to this tragic accident. We kindly request privacy as we mourn together as a family.”

Kate Vokes, distinguished chair of the Oglesby Charitable Trust, a director of their family-owned property company Bruntwood, deputy chair of the Royal Exchange theatre, and a trustee of charities Shared Health and Focused Care, met her unfortunate demise in the avalanche. Archie Vokes, who worked as a personal trainer at Form in Manchester and had recently obtained his level 1 ski instructor qualification in Canada, also lost his life in the same incident.

Reports indicate that the ill-fated group, accompanied by an instructor, was skiing well beyond the designated slopes when the avalanche struck. Local authorities confirmed the avalanche occurred at an altitude of approximately 2,300 metres and covered a distance of around 400 metres.

Kate and Archie Vokes were skiing alongside other family members, as established by the Bonneville public prosecutor’s office. Mountain gendarmes revealed that the triggering of the avalanche seemed to have been caused by another group of skiers further up the slopes.

Fortunately, the instructor, who was also buried by the avalanche, was equipped with an avalanche detector and was promptly located. He sustained minor injuries. Five other individuals, including the deceased’s husband and father, managed to escape the avalanche’s wrath.

A search-and-rescue operation was conducted, involving approximately 20 rescuers, two dog teams, a doctor, and two helicopters. The operation lasted for roughly five hours. The prosecutor’s office confirmed that a manslaughter investigation has been initiated by the police in the nearby town of Chamonix.

Jean-Luc Boch, president of the Association of Mountain Station Mayors, emphasized the unavoidable risks of off-piste skiing. He stressed, “There is no such thing as zero risk when skiing off-piste, even if accompanied by professionals, guides, or ski instructors…There will always be a potential risk hanging over you.”

A spokesperson from the Foreign Office stated, “We are providing assistance to the family of the two British citizens who lost their lives in France and are in contact with the local authorities.”

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