A skier from the North East was killed when he plunged 2,000 feet to his death from a mountain in the French Alps.
David Tapsfield, 28, was swept down a mountain near Chamonix after a fall triggered an avalanche.
The experienced mountaineer, who had moved to France from Whitley Bay a few years ago, was ski touring when a snow cornice, an overhanging edge of snow on a ridge, suddenly collapsed from under him.
His fall triggered a huge avalanche which swept him down the mountain.
He was with a Scottish friend, Lorne Cameron, from Glasgow, who survived uninjured.
The tragedy happened at about 1pm on Tuesday on Mont Buet, the highest mountain peak in the Chamonix area outside of the Mont Blanc Massif.
Mr Cameron frantically dug his friend out of the snow and tried to resuscitate him. He alerted the emergency services who airlifted Mr Tapsfield to hospital. But, tragically, he was pronounced dead on arrival.
A Chamonix police spokesman said: “A cornice ruptured and the person fell a very long distance – about 600 metres.
“The fall triggered the slide of a huge mass of snow or an avalanche.
“The man’s friend found him under the snow and pulled him out. He gave him first aid and the man was taken by helicopter to hospital but sadly he died.”
Mr Tapsfield was described by friends as “highly popular and very down-to-earth”.
He had moved to Chamonix a few years ago to pursue his love of the mountains and set up a successful sausage-making business selling his wares to local restaurants and pubs.
As a teenager David was part of the Football Development Scheme for 16 to 19-year-olds at Tyne Metropolitan College in North Tyneside.
In 2005 he won a scholarship at Lafeyatte College in New Jersey, USA, one of the top six colleges in the country, to study and play the game.
Ian Bogie, ex-Gateshead and Stockport manager, who helped run the scheme at the college, knew David and is devastated by the news of his death.
Ian, of Tynemouth, said: “I am absolutely shocked. I can’t believe this has happened to David. He was a very talented footballer and he was on our scheme.
“He was genuinely a smashing lad and I’m so shocked.”
A snow cornice is formed by wind blowing snow over a sharp terrain break, such as the crest of a mountain or along the sides of gullies, where it attaches and builds out horizontally.
It is extremely dangerous to ski or hike on them or underneath them.
The vulnerability of the structure poses a high risk of triggering avalanches.
They are particularly dangerous during sunny weather. The area has experienced warm weather this week.