Flight Instructor Investigated in Italy Air Crash; 7 Dead

January 26, 2019 Updated: January 26, 2019

Emergency personnel on Jan. 26, found the bodies of the two missing people after a helicopter collided with a tourist plane in the Italian Alps, raising the death toll to seven.

A prosecutor is investigating a flight instructor who survived a midair collision between a small tourist plane and a helicopter in the Italian Alps.

Authorities said the bodies of the last two people from the crash in Italy’s Val d’Aosta region were found on Jan. 26, raising the death toll to seven.

Italy Plane Helicopter Crash
A rescuer stands next to the debris of a helicopter after a midair collision between a small tourist airplane and a helicopter carrying skiers to a glacier in the northwestern region of Val d’Aosta, on Jan 25, 2019. (Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico via AP)

The French flight instructor was one of two survivors of Friday’s crash over the Ruter glacier near La Thuile, in Aosta Valley, which is close to northern Italy’s border with France and Switzerland.

On Friday, five people were confirmed dead and two injured.

Two helicopters were dispatched with a doctor and rescue teams on board, Italy’s mountain rescue service (CNSAS) said. The rescuers were equipped with metal-cutting tools.

Italian news agency ANSA quoted Aosta Chief Prosecutor Paolo Fortuna saying he was investigating the instructor for alleged manslaughter and had questioned him in a hospital intensive care unit.

ANSA says the instructor reportedly was sitting in the rear of the plane and his students were in front. The students, a Belgian man, and a Frenchman died.

The helicopter was bringing skiers to the glacier. There were six people aboard the helicopter—the pilot, an alpine guide, and four passengers who were heli-skiing, reported CNN.

Heli-Skiing

Helicopter skiing, or heli-skiing, is a type of backcountry skiing which involves a helicopter to access remote areas and slopes of fresh powder snow, according to Heliski. It’s an activity of downhill skiing which takes place in untouched snow on remote mountainsides away from the groomed slopes of a ski resort.

The main difference is that skiers use a helicopter to quickly reach the “stunning heights and spectacular slopes otherwise difficult to access.”

Heli-skiing first began in Canada in the mid-1960s. In 1965, Hans Gmoser began using helicopters to transport skiers high into remote mountains, in order to provide them with a unique experience, which has become a popular thrill-seeking adventure.

The two injured remain in the hospital, the officer said. Italy’s mountain emergency service tweeted Friday that they were of French and Swiss nationality.

Investigators are now working to piece together what led to the crash.

AP contributed to this report. 

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