Tributes have flowed for a Sydney teenage boy buried in a two-metre avalanche in Austria as the death toll from winter storms in Europe have risen to 21.
Max Meyer, 16, a Year 11 student at Sydney’s International Grammar School, was skiing off-piste with his family near the St Anton resort in Tyrol when they got into trouble.
Heavy snow continues to plague Europe, cutting off power in mountain villages and sparking avalanches with 21 weather-related deaths reported in the last 10 days.
Principal Shauna Colnan said she had spoken to Max’s father and had extended her deepest condolences on behalf of the school community, saying had “tragically been cut short”.
“I have spoken with Max’s father and have extended my deepest condolences on behalf of the IGS school community and offered the family all of our support,” Ms Colnan said in a statement on Friday.
“I have also advised our school community that if they need support they can reach out to our counsellors and to senior staff and me for help.”
One student told smh.com.au Max was a talented member of the school’s robotic team.
“He was enthusiastic about robotics, he was a great kid and it’s a shame the school has lost him,” he said. “He was a good guy.”
Another student Hugh McIntyre said Max was an “absolute buzz” to be around and was very smart especially when it came to languages.
“He was always first to participate in initiatives at school and always striving to be more involved,” he posted on Facebook.
“Absolutely heartbreaking. He will be missed by all of his peers.”
Australia’s foreign affairs department is providing consular assistance to the teenager’s family.
According to St Anton police, the family left the resort in Tyrol about 4.40pm local time when they issued an emergency call for help after being unable to go further down the mountain trapped in deep snow.
They were hit by the avalanche while waiting for rescuers to arrive, covering the mother and her teenage son.
According to police, the boy’s mother freed herself and was uninjured, but her son was “completely buried” and trapped for 20 minutes, the ABC reports.
Rescuers retrieved the boy’s body 20 minutes later but he could not be revived.
The family, a German man and Australian woman and their children, live in Sydney.
Meanwhile, heavy snow has cut off access to villages, swamped the inside of a Swiss hotel and contributed during the last week to at least 21 weather-related deaths in Europe, including four reported on Friday in the Balkans region and countries to its north.
The Bulgarian Red Cross said two snowboarders were killed died in an avalanche in southwest Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountains.
The driver of a snow plough also died Friday in Germany after his vehicle toppled into an icy river. In Albania, the Energy Ministry said a power company employee suffered a fatal heart attack while repairing damaged supply lines.
About 2000 soldiers and other emergency workers in Albania were assigned to help people trapped by snow and to clear roads to restore access to rural areas.
In neighbouring Slovakia, the mountain rescue service said a 37-year-old man was killed by an avalanche in the Mala Fatra mountains.
A seven-year-old child was killed by a falling tree weighed down by snow in Aying, near Munich and further concerns about snow forced the cancellation of 120 flights at Frankfurt airport and 90 at Munich airport, German news agency DPA reported.
Six German teenagers were luckier, emerging alive from an avalanche that engulfed them at the Wildkogel resort in Austria’s Salzburg province.
Austrian military helicopters flew a group of 66 German teenagers out of a mountain guest house on Friday where they had been stuck for several days.
In Salzburg, all parks, public gardens, play areas and cemeteries were closed Friday because of the danger of trees falling under the weight of snow.
Jet fighter disappears during Swiss border snowstorm
Meanwhile, French military authorities have said a pilot and a navigator were killed when a fighter jet disappeared during a training flight while flying in a snowstorm near the Swiss border.
More than 100 rescuers, police officers and others searched icy mountains for the Mirage 2000D and the two-person crew after it disappeared from radar on Wednesday local time.
The French air force said on Thursday night that the pair had died and identified them as Captain Baptiste Chirie, a combat pilot with 24 war missions and Lieutenant Audrey Michelon, an arms systems navigator who participated in 97 war missions.
The air force did not say what led to the declaration of their deaths.
Regional television France 3 reported earlier that aircraft debris was discovered scattered around hard-to-reach, forested slopes at more than 1000 metres altitude.
Defence Minister Florence Parly and the chief of the French air force, General Philippe Lavigne, planned to head on Friday (local time) to the air base in Nancy, in eastern France, to meet with aviators and families, a statement said.