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Former world champion snowboarder Julie Pomagalski, 40, dies after being ‘completely buried’ in avalanche in Swiss Alps

Former world champion snowboarder Julie Pomagalski, 40, dies after being ‘completely buried’ in avalanche in Swiss Alps

French snowboarding champion Julie Pomagalski has tragically died at the age of 40 after being buried by an avalanche on the 10,000ft-high Gemsstock mountain in the Swiss Alps, where she was submerged by a huge sheet of snow.

The celebrated athlete, who represented her country at the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympic Games, had been snowboarding as part of a group of four people when an avalanche swept them away, killing two people including the French champion.

The group were set to freeride down the slope of the mountain course when they were caught under a huge sheet of snow.

The Uri canton police received the report of an avalanche in the Steintaler area in the Unteralpta,” police in the Swiss canton of Uri said in a statement.

A group of four freeriders from France was on the descent from the Gemsstock. Suddenly, a slab came loose for reasons that are still unexplained.

"As a result, three people slid down the slope with the slab. One person was slightly injured and was flown to Uri Cantonal Hospital by Rega.”

The French Olympic team confirmed the death of their colleague, expressing condolences to Pomagalski’s family.

The tragic death of Julie... leaves the French Olympic team in mourning," they said.

In 1999, Pomagalski won the world championships in snowboard cross, adding a silver in the parallel giant slalom event at the 2003 World Championships.

Police said the avalanche struck on Tuesday as the group was descending from the Gemsstock mountain. The 2,961m (10,000ft) summit is popular with off-piste skiers because of its steep slopes and powder snow.

"For reasons still unknown, a sheet of snow broke away, sweeping three of the skiers away," officials said, who added that the pair who died were "completely buried". The third person caught by the slab escaped with minor injuries.

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