3 Spaniards die in Swiss canyoning accident

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Three Spanish sport enthusiasts died and a fourth was presumed dead after a storm surprised them while they were canyoning in a river gorge in eastern Switzerland, authorities said on Thursday.

The four men, from the northern Spanish region of Navarre, went missing in the Parlitobel Gorge in the canton of St. Gallen just before 1700 GMT on Wednesday.

Two women who were part of their group reported the men — aged from 30 to 48 — missing when they failed to appear at a meeting point after a violent thunderstorm, a police spokesman said.

Three were found dead during the night; the fourth had not been found despite a search by 100 people, police told a news conference on Thursday.

Police said the four men, whom they did not name, were not participating in a guided tour but had struck out on their own. Weather halted the search before it resumed Thursday morning.

Canyoning is travelling through canyons and gorges by a variety of techniques — walking, climbing, jumping, abseiling and swimming. The area where the Spaniards were canyoning is well-known; the local region’s tourist web site advertises it, describing “multiple worthwhile canyoning tours.”

The activity is popular in Switzerland, but carries risks, particularly in the Alps where the weather can turn quickly and fill narrow gorges with torrents of water.

In July 1999, 21 people, most of them Australians, died during a guided canyoning tour in the Bernese Oberland when they were swept up after sudden rain that rushed into the gorge they were exploring.

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