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Guilty parties prepare to appeal canyoning trial verdict

Relatives of the victims visit the canyoning memorial site near to the Saxet Brook gorge Keystone Archive

Six men found guilty of negligent manslaughter of 21 people in the Saxet Brook canyoning trial last week have decided to provisionally appeal their conviction.

This content was published on December 19, 2001 - 06:09

Günther Galli, one of the defence lawyers, said the move was a preparatory measure aimed at ensuring that a full-scale appeal could take place at a later date. Any move to appeal, even provisional, had to be lodged within ten days of the trial's verdict.

Galli said his clients would take the final decision on whether to appeal after the release of legal papers from the judge, Thomas Zbinden, in January. The documents, which have to be available within 60 days of the close of the trial, will outline the reasons behind the guilty verdict.

Wall of water

The six people were convicted of negligent manslaughter for the deaths of 18 tourists and three guides on July 27 1999. The adventurers were killed when a muddy wall of water swept through the Saxet Brook gorge near Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland.

All of the victims were aged between 19 and 31 and came from as far afield as Australia and South Africa.

The three directors and three employees of the now defunct Adventure World Company were found guilty of allowing the canyoning trip to go ahead in spite of a storm breaking over the Saxet Brook's catchment area.

They were given suspended sentences ranging from three to five months and fines of up to SFr 7,500 ($4,592). The two guides, who survived the tragedy, were acquitted.

Following the trial, Zbinden said the directors were guilty because they had not taken all the potential risks into account and had not banned canyoning during storms.

All the guilty parties denied the charges, testifying that the flash flood was entirely unforeseeable.

swissinfo with agencies

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