Two hikers lost their lives in a midday avalanche that occurred in the Formazza Valley of Piedmont. The avalanche occurred near Lake Toggia at an altitude of 2,200 meters, close to the Swiss border.
The victims, Vanessa Gatti, aged 30 from Saronno, and Roberto Biancon, aged 53 from Legnano, were engaged in a snowshoe hike when they were unexpectedly struck by the cascading snow mass. The avalanche risk in the area was classified as “marked,” reaching level 3 on the European scale that extends up to 5, exacerbated by challenging weather conditions and strong winds.
The alert was raised by the guardians of the Toggia Lake dam, who witnessed the incident and promptly reported it. As Alpine and Speleological Rescue technicians, they were the first responders at the avalanche site, initiating a search based on the Artva signal. Unfortunately, the initial attempts yielded negative results as the rescuers reported that the hikers were without the necessary devices.
One body retrieved from the lake
Additional support arrived swiftly, with the mountain rescue avalanche dog unit and technicians transported by the Azienda Zero Piemonte helicopter rescue team. Despite the challenging conditions marked by strong winds at high altitudes, the team successfully located the bodies. The first body was found beneath the snow, while the second, guided by the avalanche dog, was identified within the lake.
The recovery operation involved the fire brigade’s diving team, tasked with retrieving the body submerged in the freezing waters.
Formazza previously witnessed a fatal mountain accident on September 24. Two hikers from the province of Novara lost their lives in a significant landslide near Lake Sabbione.
Highlighting the hazards associated with mountain excursions, Alpine Rescue emphasised the increased risk in the early months of 2024 due to heavy snowfall and heightened wind activity.
The councillor Pini Giostra, in a video statement, urged caution in choosing routes and stated the necessity of carrying essential equipment such as probes, shovels, and ARTVA devices to aid in identifying individuals trapped in avalanches.
Alto Adige avalanche – boys rescued
In a separate incident in Alto Adige, two boys aged 10 and 11 narrowly escaped a similar fate after being caught in an avalanche while venturing off-piste in Racines, near the Rinneralm slopes and the Enzian lift.
Despite lacking identification equipment, the swift response of the Pelikan helicopter and rescue teams allowed for the identification and extraction of the partially buried youngsters.
Both were transported to Vipiteno hospital with minor injuries. Their rapid recovery from the snow shows the critical importance of timely intervention in such situations.