A STUDENT from the Ribble Valley has been killed in an avalanche in Scotland with three other climbers.

Christopher William Bell, of Higher Commons Lane, Osbaldeston, was discovered buried beneath the snow following a major search in Glencoe on Saturday.

The 24-year-old was undertaking a Phd in ocean mapping in Oban, Northern Constabulary said.

Speaking from the family home last night, his father Simon said the family wanted to be left to grieve.

Mr Bell also leaves his mother Alison and a younger brother, Edward.

One other man and two women also died, while another woman was in a critical condition in Belford Hospital in Fort William last night.

A sixth climber, who asked not to be named, issued a statement yesterday expressing his sadness at the tragedy.

He said: “On Saturday 19 January 2013, five of my friends and I were descending a mountain in Glencoe named Stob Coire nam Bian in an area known as Church Door Buttress when the party was swept away by a snow avalanche. It is with much sadness and deep regret that some of my friends have died as a result.

“All in the group loved the mountains and are experienced winter walkers.

“My sincere thanks goes to the members of the public, mountain rescue teams and other emergency services who assisted.”

Una Rachel Finnegan, 25, a junior doctor from County Antrim in Northern Ireland and Tom Chesters, 28, a Phd student at Hull University, were also confirmed as victims last night.

The family of the fourth victim of the avalanche has requested that her name be held back until extended next of kin are informed.

Emergency services were alerted to the accident at about 2pm on Saturday and a major search operation involving two mountain rescue teams and police dogs was launched.

John Grieve, leader of Glencoe mountain rescue team, which co-ordinated the search, said the alarm was initially raised by two climbers - who were not part of the group of six - when they discovered one of the casualties lying in the snow.

But, soon after, police were contacted by the male survivor from the climbing party, who told them more people were missing.

Mr Grieve, who is in Spain and was not part of the search, said: “The first call to police was from two other people who had been on the mountain, they found someone lying next to where they were climbing.

“So, the assumption was that it was just one casualty, but it became clear that there were others missing when they heard from the man who is safe.”

He said the deceased climbers were located using a technique called ‘probing’, where a metal stick is pushed into the snow.

Mr Grieve said: “I'm not sure how deeply buried they were, but using that technique would suggest it was more than a metre.”

ABOVE: A member of Glencoe Mountain Rescue team talks about the avalanche and the rescue operation