Tragedy at French ultra as one runner dies and others are injured in bad weather

Emergency helicopter
(Image credit: Getty)

One runner died and at least three others were injured after slipping on a steep, wet slope during harsh weather conditions at France’s Ultra-Trail du Haut-Giffre (UTHG) early on Saturday 15th June.

The runner who died was an as-yet unnamed man in his fifties who reportedly suffered a cardiorespiratory arrest, while three others were hospitalized with severe injuries, according to CNN.

The race organizers cancelled the race and issued the following statement.

The full translation of the post is as follows:

“It is with great sadness that we announce that UTHG has just learned of a dramatic event that resulted in the accidental death of a racer. The first responders at the scene intervened immediately and provided first aid while awaiting his evacuation.

“All our thoughts are with the victim's family and relatives.

“In such circumstances, we chose to cancel the continuation of the event. Further information will be provided once it becomes available.

“Thank you for all the messages of support already received.”

The three-day ultra takes place in the eastern French department of Haute Savoie, in the French Alps, and was set to run from June 14 to 16. Organizers were forced to postpone the start of the run owing to “difficult weather conditions”.

The problems began around 4:35am local time, when rescue services began receiving calls about the fallen runners. The weather had deteriorated significantly around 3am, making the trails dangerously slippery. 

The four runners fell “in a mountainous area made slippery by the weather,” Bonneville public prosecutor Karline Bouisset told BFMTV, who added  that the exact cause of death for the deceased runner would be determined by an autopsy.

Two other men, one in his 50s and one in his 30s, were severely injured but are in stable condition, while the fourth person was a woman who suffered a less severe injury. Intensive rescue operations involved 73 local firefighters and the Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne (PGHM) mountain rescue service from Chamonix. The prosecutor’s office have launched an investigation into the incident. There will certainly be questions to be answered about the wisdom of letting the race go ahead in such rough conditions.

Local newspaper Le Dauphiné Libéré Savoie Mont-Blanc posted the following on Instagram (which suggest there were many more minor injuries as well):

“[DEADLY ULTRA TRAIL IN HAUTE-SAVOIE⚫️] Above Samoëns, in Haute-Savoie, the evacuation of the wounded of the UTHG (Ultra trail du Haut-Giffre) took place in the middle of the mountain on the southern slope of the Angolon point. The volunteer mountain rescue team of ADSSM74 (Departmental Association of Mountain Rescue Companies of Haute-Savoie), the PGHM and the GMSP (Mountain Group of Firefighters) evacuated the seriously injured by the Civil Security helicopter .

“One dead and 16 injured due to the bad weather during this ultra trail.”

Our thoughts go out to the friends and family of the deceased.