Family's tribute to avalanche victim

By Dave GooderhamA GRIEVING father told last night how his son was killed in an avalanche as he took part in the sport he loved.Sam Harber's body remains embedded in metres of compacted snow in the French Alps after he died with fellow snowboarder James Rourke, 26, in the avalanche.

By Dave Gooderham

A GRIEVING father told last night how his son was killed in an avalanche as he took part in the sport he loved.

Sam Harber's body remains embedded in metres of compacted snow in the French Alps after he died with fellow snowboarder James Rourke, 26, in the avalanche.

French search parties said the impact had been so ferocious that Mr Harber's avalanche beacon had been ripped from him - hindering rescue attempts.


You may also want to watch:


Mr Harber, 25, from Ixworth, near Bury St Edmunds, was swept away by the avalanche while snowboarding on April 21 and a rescue mission has been unable to find his body - but his family said they accepted that their son was dead.

His devastated father, Barry, has visited the scene of his son's death and said: “The body has not yet been found as the area he is in is extremely dangerous.

Most Read

“They had a huge search - involving about 20 people and a helicopter - and they knew roughly where he was.

“But they will only recover the body when it is safe enough to do so and I fully understand that as we don't want any more deaths.

“It is absolutely not possible that he will be found alive, but we are hoping it won't be too long before the body can be flown home.”

He added: “I was told that the snow conditions were absolutely amazing on Thursday. They were doing this amazing run at the top of the mountain, but they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“It wasn't just the snow, but the rocks which killed them. Sam wouldn't have known anything about it - police said his death would have been instantaneous.”

Mr Harber, a former Thurston Community College pupil, and Mr Rourke, who were described as “kindred spirits”, were killed while snowboarding off-piste on Grande Motte, Tignes.

The body of Mr Rourke, who comes from the Brighton area, was found on Friday by rescue services, but the search for Mr Harber was called off later that afternoon due to deteriorating conditions.

In January, the pair had climbed the 11,994ft peak of the Grande Motte from Val d'Isere - where they worked - to raise money for the Tsunami appeal after Mr Harber learned that part of Sri Lanka where he spent a surfing holiday last year had been wiped out.

They raised more than £15,000 and Mr Harber's father, from Lawshall, near Bury St Edmunds, said: “He really connected with Sri Lanka and he raised this amazing amount of money.

“This was absolutely typical of Sam - he would do anything for anyone. People would go to him with a problem and he would always sit them down and talk it through.”

He added his son had been a passionate traveller who had visited about 26 countries, including a year in New Zealand teaching English in a Maori school.

“He really lived life to the full - he would always try anything and we were so very proud of him,” he said.

“It has been amazing listening to people saying how well liked he was. There was not a bad bone in his body, he touched everyone's hearts, wherever he was in the world.”

Mr Harber's sister Zoe, 29, joined friends at the Val d'Isere ski resort for a poignant memorial evening on Monday.

Both avalanche victims worked for tour operator Snowline VIP, where staff paid glowing tributes to them.

Andy Sturt, managing director, said: “James and Sam were loyal, valued and extremely popular members of our team.

“They will be hugely missed. Our thoughts and sympathies at this time are for their families, friends and colleagues.”

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter