A French official says that some high school students swept away by a deadly avalanche in the Alps may have skied ahead of their teacher.
Jean-Paul Bonnetain, top administrative official for the Isere region, urged all skiers to heed avalanche warnings after three people were killed at the Deux-Alpes ski resort Wednesday.
Two of the dead, a boy aged 14 and a 16-year-old girl, were among a group of 10 French high school students skiing with their teacher, and the third was believed to be a Ukrainian skier.
Speaking on i-Tele television Thursday, Bonnetain said "initial witness accounts describe students passing ahead of the leader."
Another regional official said the group had no guide.
Gendarmes returned to the scene Thursday with investigators looking into why the teacher apparently took the students into a closed ski slope.
French minister for youth and sports, Patrick Kanner, told Europe 1: “How could anyone think to take children, after a period of heavy snow, on a track that was closed?”
The prefect of the Isere region told BFM-TV that the ski trail where a deadly avalanche hit a school group was so risky it had been closed since the "beginning of the (ski) season" in December.
Jean-Paul Bonnetain said Wednesday evening that the group leader "had taken the initiative" to lead the school group onto this piste.
He said that the trail "was really of a technical level" that is not suitable for beginners or high schoolers aged between 16 and 17.
The avalanche on Wednesday afternoon hit 10 students from the Saint Exupery school in Lyon and their teacher. More than 60 rescue workers were mobilised in the search-and-rescue operation with sniffer dogs and a helicopter.