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Two Scouts on Hiking Trip Freeze to Death

October 31, 1990

ALBERTVILLE, France (AP) _ Two Boy Scouts whose hiking team was surprised by a severe Alpine storm died in a hospital today from the effects of exposure.

The youths were airlifted to a Grenoble hospital Tuesday after their leader, a 22-year-old former scout, managed to climb down the mountain in bare feet to summon help, police said.

Doctors said the two youths were barely alive when they arrived at Grenoble’s Sablons hospital, with body temperatures below 68 degrees. Doctors tried unsuccessfully to restore their heart beats.

The victims were identified as Olivier Schmit, 20, and Sebastien Baron, 16.

A third scout, Michael Poursin, also was hospitalized, but his condition was not critical, officials said.

Prosecutors opened a homicide investigation Wednesday into the actions of the Scout leader, Emmanuel Beninia, who was treated for frostbite at the hospital and then briefly taken into police custody.

The group of seven scouts, all aged 16 to 20, and their leader had come from a Paris suburb to spend the All Saints Day vacation week hiking in the Alps.

On Monday evening, the group camped on a mountainside above the town of Parlognan-la-Vanoise, at an altitude of 8,200 feet. They had hoped to reach a shelter, but were forced to stop several hundred yards short of the refuge because of poor visibility.

A storm moved in during the night, ripping their tents and scattering their equipment, officials said.

On Tuesday morning, the storm lifted and the leader of the group descended to get help. Police said he made the descent in bare feet because his boots had been lost in the storm.

A helicopter reached the campsite at midday to evacuate the hikers.

Members of the regional mountain police unit said the scout team was well- equipped, but apparently made the mistake of not obtaining current weather reports. One officer said the hikers might have changed plans if they had heard the radio forecast of the storm.

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