Five skiers on Swiss Alps trip ‘fell asleep together’ before freezing to death as search for missing girlfriend resumes

13 March 2024, 06:43 | Updated: 13 March 2024, 07:46

Five skiers who froze to death during a storm on a ski trip 'fell asleep together', family members said.
Five skiers who froze to death during a storm on a ski trip 'fell asleep together', family members said. Picture: Social media/Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Five family members who froze to death in the Swiss Alps during a ski trip have been pictured for the first time - while the search continues for the missing sixth person.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Three of the victims were named as brothers Jean-Vincent Moix, 30, David Moix, 27, and Laurent Moix, 21 as well as cousin Marc Moix, 44, and uncle Joel Moix, 58.

The sixth skier, who remains missing, is believed to be 28-year-old law graduate Emilie Deschenaux, who was the girlfriend of victim David, the MailOnline reports.

Her backpack and skis were found next to the bodies of the rest of the group.

Swiss authorities have not yet confirmed Emilie is the sixth missing member.

The search for Emilie was temporarily suspended on Tuesday due to fog but is expected to resume on Wednesday.

Paying tribute to their sons, the parents of the three brothers said their sons 'fell asleep together' while they did something they loved.

They also said: “Emilie, David's love, is still on the mountain.”

Marc Moix’s family said in a statement: “After a last hike in the mountains to share his light, he has become our new star, which will now be our guide.”

They also thanked the authorities for their help in the search operation, as they said: “Through their professionalism, their availability, their listening, their empathy, they brought everyone a little light and comfort in these difficult moments of waiting.”

Marc Moix (left) and Emilie (right), who is believed to be the sixth person still missing.
Marc Moix (left) and Emilie (right), who is believed to be the sixth person still missing. Picture: Valais Police/Instagram

Read more: 'Miracle' of the Alps? Hopes missing sixth skier could still be alive after five others froze to death during storm

Read more: Family of skiers dug ‘snow cave’ in desperate attempt to stay alive before they 'froze to death’ in Swiss Alps

Joel Moix’s family said he had “'left full of enthusiasm for his last ascent with his dear climbing companions.”

It comes after rescuers hunting for the sixth skier said "miracles happen" after finding a backpack and skis.

Lead rescuer Air Zermatt said his team previously saved people who had been missing for days which has given workers a glimmer of hope that the missing skier may still be alive.

Swiss media have speculated the individual may have fallen into a nearby crevice, given that their backpack and skis were found but rescuers have been unable to visually locate them.

M.Truffer said: "The area is full of crevices - they may have fallen near the other members of the group. But this is just speculation."

Describing how his team discovered five bodies scattered on the mountain, he told the Swiss outlet NZZ: "First we found two people lying on the snow, severely hypothermic. Thanks to sounding poles and avalanche locators, we later found two more people lying under the snow cover. We had to shovel these out.

"When we found the people, they were very lightly dressed... they ended up disorientated at high altitude."

Jean-Vincent Moix (left) and David Moix (right).
Jean-Vincent Moix (left) and David Moix (right). Picture: Social media

He said the skiers had tried to build a cave to protect themselves - in temperatures of -30 degrees C with windchill - but it was to no avail.

He added: "That's actually a good idea. But the group didn't have the necessary equipment with them. They had shovels, but they were too light to do anything with this massive blanket of snow."

The group of six skiers, who ranged in age from 21 to 58, left Zermatt Saturday morning with the goal of reaching the town of Arolla, near the Matterhorn mountain, later that day.

But they became stranded at an altitude of around 11,400ft near Tete Blanche, a mountain peak between Zermatt and Arolla, when the storm hit.

A member of the group sent a distress call to emergency services around 5pm on Saturday, authorities said, but helicopters and rescue teams were unable to deploy, such was the ferocity of the storm.

By the time a rescue team finally reached the mountain on Sunday evening, five of the six alpine enthusiasts had perished close to the Dent Blanche alpine cabin.

Valais Police search for missing hikers near Zermatt

Footage captured from a helicopter in the Swiss Alps appears to show the ‘snow cave’ the group dug before their deaths, as the video shows tracks in the snow with a dip in the middle.

The group had tried to make the cave to shelter from the extreme weather but slipped into unconsciousness and died from the exposure, rescuers said.

Swiss locals held a memorial precession on Monday.
Swiss locals held a memorial precession on Monday. Picture: Alamy

Tributes have been pouring in for the family members, including Jean-Vincent, who had worked on the local council.

Read More: Family of skiers found dead in Swiss Alps as urgent search and rescue underway for sixth person still missing

Read More: Family ‘beyond heartbroken’ after British mother and son killed in avalanche - as police hunt cross-country skiers

The Mayor of Vex, Sebastien Menoud, said: "It is such a huge tragedy to lose a colleague on the local council.'Our thoughts are with him, his family and those around him and we express our deepest condolences to them.

"One knows that it is an immeasurable pain that his family is now confronted with.

"We would like to take some of that pain away from them, even if we can't do too much and we know that we can't bring the deceased back.

"In the office at the town hall on Monday there were a lot of tears but there were also people who didn't know anything about the weekend's drama."

Search operations for the sixth person remain ongoing.
Search operations for the sixth person remain ongoing. Picture: Valais Police

Another friend of the family posted on Facebook: "Why is it always the best ones leave first?'David (like his brothers) was the epitome of selflessness, always listening. David was very generous. Lowkey he never came forward and yet he could have.

"The mountains of his region, which he knew by heart and cherished so much, took him away.

"Last Sunday, he was still explaining how he was looking forward to travelling the world after passing his Bar degree with flying colours.

"From tonight on, he'll be watching this world from up there. Today I am at a loss for words to express the sorrow of this loss.

"David, your light will shine in our hearts forever. To all those affected by this tragedy, my deepest thoughts are with you.'Together, let's remember them for all the happiness they brought to our lives. May their souls rest in peace."