Italy helicopter crash stretches avalanche recovery efforts

  • 25/01/2017

A helicopter ambulance that crashed in the Italian mountains has further stretched emergency services workers who found victims but no more survivors after an avalanche buried a nearby hotel.

The discovery of the bodies of two women on Tuesday afternoon as rescuers searched through the snow and rubble brought the death toll from last week's destruction of the Hotel Rigopiano to 17 as the first funerals of the victims were held.

The unrelated crash of the helicopter, killing all six on board, on the other side of the Gran Sasso range about 100km away in the Abruzzo region put the emergency services under further strain.

Rescue workers had to climb up part of a mountain to reach the wrecked helicopter, which had been heading to a hospital in the regional capital of L'Aquila with an injured skier aboard when it plunged into a mountainside.

The new disaster hit the region as the first funerals were held for the victims of the avalanche disaster.

Family and friends of hotel worker Alessandro Giancaterino filed into a church in nearby Farindola behind the 42-year-old's coffin, which was draped with an Inter Milan soccer club flag.

"He was a perfect person. Kind, gentle. He loved his job at the hotel," one friend said outside the church.

Some of the 11 survivors spent two days under ice and rubble.

Twelve people are still missing since the wall of snow razed the four-storey building last Wednesday, hours after earthquakes shook Abruzzo and the neighbouring regions.

Three puppies were found alive in the hotel's crushed boiler room on Monday.

The last time surviving people were brought out was on Saturday morning.

But officials vowed to carry on with the rescue effort.

"We will not stop until we are certain that no one else is left under there," civil protection official Luigi D'Angelo said.

Prosecutors in nearby Pescara have opened an investigation into the hotel disaster.