Family pays tribute to British student killed in zip wire tragedy

August 11, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

The grandparents of a British student who died after smashing into a rock face while using a high-speed zip wire in the Swiss Alps yesterday paid tribute to her.

Tragic Andrea Watton, 21, was among seven extreme sports fanatics on an expedition near the resort of Saas-Fee on Sunday.

She was tackling a cable ride across three ravines known as the Gorges Alpine when she careered into the rock face after it apparently failing to connect a brake cable.

Andrea, who studies at Bangor University, was on a week-long trip with six other sport science students on a trip to the village when she was killed instantly in the accident.

Her parents Peter, 50, and Deborah, 47, were ”absolutely devastated” when officers visited their home in Fordingbridge, near Salisbury, Wilts., to break the news on Sunday night.

Yesterday Andrea’s grandmother Gwendoline Watton, also from Fordingbridge, said: ”Her parents have been left absolutely devastated by her death.

”They were the perfect family and it’s hit them really hard.

”Peter has taken it badly, she was his life.

”Andrea was really into sport and outdoor pursuits and wanted to pursue a career in something to do with that.

”She was the most caring and thoughtful girl you could ever meet. She was everything you would want a young lady to be and really was a lovely girl.

”I know she was on a trip with some of her friends from university but I don’t know the circumstances of her death. I heard a brake wasn’t applied but I don’t know.”

Andrea, who leaves behind siblings David and Rachel, 17, was on a ”via ferrata” – a mountain route fitted with cables, ladders and bridges – at the time of the accident.

Her group were making their way across the Gorge Alpine route that links Saas-Fee to Saas-Grund, crossing gorges on zip wires, bridges, steps, steel cables and ladders.

Mrs Watton added: ”Andrea was really looking forward to going on the trip and it’s awful what’s happened. A real tragedy.

”She had passed various courses to teach others how to scuba dive and recently came back from Cyprus where she was teaching people to scuba.

”Police visited Peter and Deborah at 11pm on Sunday and then told me on Monday.”

When she reached the third zip wire on the course, Andrea decided not to use the special equipment designed for the activity and was not being supervised by a guide, local police said.

A spokesman said: ”Despite the reservations of her colleagues, she fixed only two hooks to the cable and launched herself. She was unable to brake when she reached the other side and smashed violently into a rock face. She died immediately.”

The local magistrate in Haut-Valais has opened an investigation into the incident to establish what happened.

A spokesman for the Bangor University said a member of staff would be travelling to Switzerland to help with the investigation and the students involved will be offered counselling.

She said: ”The university is saddened by the news of Andrea who died i this tragic accident.

”Andrea was conscientious and a high achieving student who was well-liked by her peers.

”She was passionate, thoughtful and engaging and was quick to volunteer to help others whenever possible.

”She will be greatly missed by students and staff at the school of sports, health and exercise science.

”All our thoughts and sympathies are with her family and friends at this difficult time.”

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