A YOUNG Durham woman who was seriously hurt in an avalanche which killed four of her friends remains in a critical condition in hospital.
The 24-year-old, from the Durham area, is being cared for at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital, where she was flown after initially being treated at Belford hospital in Fort William.
She suffered severe head injuries in the avalanche, which struck at about 2pm on Saturday as the woman and five friends made their descent on Bidean Nam Bian in Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands.
Police said this morning there was no change to her condition.
PhD students Christopher Bell, 24, and Tom Chesters, 28, and 25-year-old junior doctor Una Finnegan were swept 1,000ft to their deaths as they made their way down the mountain.
Another woman was also killed. Police have so far withheld her name to allow her family members to inform other relatives.
One man survived by leaping from the collapsing sheet of snow and hammering an ice axe into firmer ground.
Friends have said the group were experienced climbers who loved the mountains and were well-equipped for the trek.
Mr Bell was studying for a PhD in ocean mapping in Oban.
Northern Constabulary initially said he was from Blackpool, Lancashire, but said today he was from Blackburn.
Mr Chesters had been living in Leeds and working towards his PhD qualification at Hull University while Ms Finnegan, originally from Coleraine in Co Londonderry, was a qualified doctor who lived in Edinburgh.
Sam Morris, 35, who used to work with Mr Bell and Mr Chesters as mountain bike guides in the French Alps, said they were both elite outdoor pursuits competitors and spent most of their free time on the mountains.
Speaking from France, he said: “It was so few years lived but I know there’s not much either one of them would have done differently.
“They seized every opportunity.
“They’d do things that people who spend their whole lives sitting behind a desk wish they could have done.
“When they died, they were with the people they loved, doing what they loved.”
Mr Morris said Mr Chesters was one of Britain’s leading competitive orienteers while Mr Bell competed in triathlons at an elite level and ranked highly in major national events.
Ms Finnegan studied medicine at Newcastle University and took her masters in anthropology of health and illness in Edinburgh.
Her father Dr Owen Finnegan was a well-respected consultant at the Causeway Hospital in Co Londonderry.
Independent councillor David McClarty said his thoughts and prayers were with the Finnegan family, including Dr Finnegan, who has been a leading campaigner against any cuts at local health facility.
“When one hears of a tragedy like this, your heart goes out to the families affected, but when you discover that one of them is your own, it brings it home to you much worse,” he said.
“This young woman, a qualified doctor, had her whole life ahead of her and then it is tragically cut short.
“The family is a Christian one and hopefully they will get some comfort from the fact that she died doing something she enjoyed.”
As news of the accident broke on Saturday, a major search operation ensued involving both Glencoe and Lochaber mountain rescue teams, and specialist police dogs.
The male survivor of the group has expressed his “sadness and deep regret”.
“All in the group loved the mountains and are experienced winter walkers,” he said in a statement.
“My sincere thanks goes to the members of the public, mountain rescue teams and other emergency services who assisted.”
Andy Nelson, deputy head of Glencoe mountain rescue team, said the avalanche would have unfolded in “a split second”.
Mr Bell’s parents were reported to be too upset to comment from their home in Osbaldeston, near Blackburn, but a tribute was issued on the Facebook page of his father’s decking business, Evabel.
The statement read: “We are so sad to let everyone know that Simon & Alison’s son Chris was one of the people who were killed in the avalanche in Glencoe.
“Chris was a wonderful son, friend and human being. Our thoughts and prayers are with Simon, Alison & (brother) Ed at this awful time.”