Family of UK mother and son killed in Alps avalanche ‘beyond heartbroken’

London: The family of a mother and son who died in an avalanche in the French Alps have said they are “beyond heartbroken” by the tragedy.

Kate Vokes, 54, and Archie Vokes, 22, from Manchester were killed when the avalanche swept through an off-piste section of the resort of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, near Mont Blanc, on 28 December.

In a statement, the family said: “We are beyond heartbroken at the loss of our beloved, wonderful Kate and Archie.

“Words cannot express how terrible we all feel nor the hole in our lives that has been left by this tragic accident. We kindly ask for privacy as we grieve together as a family.”

Kate Vokes was chair of the Oglesby Charitable Trust, a director of their family-owned property company Bruntwood, deputy chair of the Royal Exchange theatre and a trustee of charities Shared Health and Focused Care.

Archie Vokes was a personal trainer at Form in Manchester, and in the previous year had achieved his level 1 ski instructor qualification in Canada.

They were part of a group reportedly skiing far outside the designated slopes with an instructor when the avalanche hit. Local authorities said it occurred at an altitude of about 2,300 metres and travelled about 400 metres.

Kate and Archie Vokes had been skiing with other family members, the Bonneville public prosecutor’s office had said previously. Mountain gendarmes said the avalanche appeared to have been set off by a group of skiers higher up the slopes.

A third skier, the instructor, was also buried but was wearing an avalanche detector and was quickly found. He was said to have sustained light injuries. Five other people escaped, including the husband and father of the deceased.

A search-and-rescue effort was deployed, which included about 20 rescuers, two dog teams, a doctor and two helicopters, lasting about five hours. The prosecutor’s office added that a manslaughter investigation has been opened by police in nearby Chamonix.

Jean-Luc Boch, the president of the Association of Mountain Station Mayors, said there was no such thing as risk-free off-piste skiing.

“Zero risk doesn’t exist off-piste,” he told FrenchInfo. “There is a risk and that risk exists even if you are accompanied by professionals, by guides, by ski instructors … there is always a risk weighing over you.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are supporting the family of two British people who died in France and are in contact with the local authorities.”