A canyoning accident occurred early on Wednesday evening in Vättis in the Parlitobel Gorge. Three men were killed and a fourth is still missing. Because of the bad weather, the search cannot continue on Friday either.
Four men and two women went to the starting point of the canyoning route around 4 p.m. While the two women started their way back on the hiking trail, the men climbed into the gorge. “Unfortunately, we have to assume four dead Spanish recreational athletes,” said Hanspeter Krüsi, head of communications at the St.Gallen cantonal police, at the media conference.
The missing man is still being searched for. The St.Gallen canton police said on Friday on request of FM1Today: “The weather has thwarted our plans since yesterday evening and the weather forecast is not good even on the weekend.” The police do not assume that the search can continue in the next hours and days. But there are people stationed on site who are constantly monitoring the situation.
The members of the group had known each other and they had all done the sport together several times. One of the women lost her husband. When the men did not return home at the agreed time, the two women alerted the police around 7 p.m. At around 6:10 p.m. to around 7:30 p.m., a thunderstorm came down with the center exactly above the gorge, with rainfall of 25 to 30 liters per square meter and strong winds.
Media workers visit the scene of the accident.
Men were carried away by masses of rock and water
A large number of rescue workers immediately went to the accident site and started the search. In addition to searching from the air, two canyoning specialists were dropped into the gorge by a helicopter using a winch. At 11:20 p.m., two men were found lifeless at the confluence with the Gigerwald reservoir. A third man was found half an hour later in the immediate vicinity. The site suggests that the men were swept away by rock and water.
All men are friends and come from the northeastern part of Spain, from the Navarre region. They are 30, 33, 38, and 48 years old. The corpses are identified by the forensic medicine department at the St.Gallen Cantonal Hospital.
100 people and Superpuma in action
Armin Grob, Alpine Rescue Eastern Switzerland and specialist canyoning specialist, subsequently explained details of the rescue operation. Several patrols from the St.Gallen cantonal police were in action with special units of drones, alpine task forces, police divers and dog handlers. The Pizol rescue station with canyoning specialists, Alpine Rescue Eastern Switzerland, two Rega helicopters, an army superpuma, the helicopter from the Zurich cantonal police, employees from the Gigerwald power plant and a team from psychological first aid were also on duty. “On Thursday, a search dog team and mountain rescue team will also be involved in the search.” The exact course of the accident will be clarified under the direction of the St.Gallen public prosecutor, says Krüsi.
Under normal conditions, climbing this gorge is not particularly difficult for experienced canyoning athletes. “The weather played a major role in this tragic accident.” The Parlitobel is described in internet forums and gorge guides and is freely accessible to everyone.
After the media conference, the journalists were able to get their own picture near the reservoir. Around 3:30 p.m. rain set in again and within minutes the trickle grew again into a raging brook. The search for the missing person had to be interrupted again.
Not the first canyoning accident in Switzerland
July 27, 1999
The worst canyoning accident in Swiss history occurred around 20 years ago: In 1999, a group of young tourists and their guides were surprised by a flood wave in Saxetbach in the Bernese Oberland. 21 people were killed.
7. August 2001
A father and his daughter from Lucerne were carried away by the water masses while canyoning in the Nara torrent near Osogna TI and drowned when a power station emptied its reservoir.
30. April 2003
In 2003, a 54-year-old Dutchman died in a canyoning accident in the Onsernone Valley in Ticino. He fell while abseiling.
11. June 2004
At that time a 33-year-old German tourist had a fatal accident while canyoning in the Valle Malvaglia TI. He had been swept away by the water while abseiling off a bridge.
24. August 2006
On August 24, 2006, a 48-year-old man from the canton of Neuchâtel was killed in a canyoning accident in the Ticino Maggia valley.
8. June 2008
Back in the canton of Bern: In 2008 a 36-year-old New Zealand canyoning guide had a fatal accident in Stampbach near Sigriswil. He had climbed into the ravine with a colleague and suddenly disappeared.
October 7, 2012
The last time there was a major accident while canyoning was in October 2012. In the Fallenbach between Amden and Walensee two groups were surprised by rising water. A 24-year-old guide from Belgium and a 23-year-old tourist from Germany could only be recovered dead.