Scottish Highlands avalanche: Tributes paid to University of Hull student Tom Chesters
TRIBUTES have been paid to a University of Hull student with "unlimited energy" killed in an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands.
Tom Chesters, 28, was one of four climbers swept away by a giant slab of snow and ice near Glencoe on Saturday afternoon.
Mr Chesters, described as a "gifted" student, was in the final year of his PhD in the at the Cottingham Road university.
Last night, Professor Michael Fagan, who helped supervise Mr Chesters's research into the condition, osteoporosis, led the tributes. He told the Mail: "Tom was a fantastic young man who seemed to have unlimited energy and enthusiasm.
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"He was completely committed to everything he did, including his PhD research.
"I know I speak for everyone at the university when I say it was a real pleasure and a privilege to have known Tom. We will all miss him enormously."
Northern Constabulary have named two of his companions who also died in the tragedy as Una Rachel Finnegan, 25, of County Antrim, and 24-year-old Christopher Bell, of Blackburn.
The name of the fourth victim, a woman, has not yet been released.
A fifth climber, a 24-year-old woman from the Durham area, is in a critical condition in a Glasgow hospital with head injuries described as serious.
In a statement, the sixth member of the party, who asked not to be named, said: "On Saturday, five of my friends and I were descending a mountain in Glencoe, in an area known as Church Door Buttress, when the party was swept away by a snow avalanche.
"It is with much sadness and deep regret that some of my friends have died as a result.
"All in the group loved the mountains and are experienced winter walkers."
It is thought the party were descending from a peak on the south side of the valley when the snow-covered slope broke away.
All were found within four hours of the alarm being raised, say rescuers.
Andy Nelson, deputy head of Glencoe Mountain Rescue, said the tragedy would have unfolded in a split-second.
Mr Nelson, who co-ordinated the rescue, said: "Being in an avalanche is like standing on a carpet and having it pulled out from underneath you.
"Any thoughts of trying to 'swim' out from out of it is futile. You are on steep ground, essentially standing on a raft of snow that is sliding downhill at speeds of maybe 40mph to 50mph.
"It would have unfolded in a split second, they would have felt the snow moving and then they would have been travelling at a speed that was impossible to stop.
"The man who survived was standing above the snow and we think he actually jumped and got his ice axe into firmer snow.
"'They slid over some very rocky ground and ended up about 1,000ft below, under between 1.5 and 2m of snow. It's a brutal experience. There are enormous forces at work and you are being twisted about at high speed."
Mr Chesters, originally from the south-west of England, had been commuting to Hull from Leeds.
He is a former member of Humberside and Lincolnshire Orienteers.
Neil Harvatt, the club's fixtures secretary and coach, said: "We are all gutted. Tom was very fit and active and loved the outdoors.
"We send our condolences to the family."