British hiker fell 350ft to his death in Austrian Alps

Richard Hartley

A British man who fell 350ft to his death on a holiday in the Austrian Alps was on a trip celebrating his friend's 50th birthday, an inquest heard.

Richard Hartley, 41, who was originally from Bolton but lived in Germany, had organised the trip for his friend Steve Tooze's 50th birthday.

The friends set out for a hike in the region of Zillertal but a freak turn in the weather rendered their trip treacherous, and Steve slipped and fell to his death.

This week's inquest in Bolton has now ruled the death a "tragic accident".

Mr Tooze, who lives in London, was best man at Hartley's wedding to his wife Fiona in 2005.

They had arranged the trip to Austria in June while Mrs Hartley visited her parents in Hong Kong with the couple's two young children, reports The Bolton News.

The pair set off on their trip when bad weather forced them to turn back. Mr Hartley was walking ahead of Mr Tooze, when he fell and slid down the mountain.

Mr Tooze used his mobile to call his wife in London, who then called Austrian mountain emergency services.

He was rescued by helicopter, and Mr Hartley's body was later found by emergency services.

According to the Daily Mail, Mr Tooze told the inquest: "He went on one elbow and then his legs slipped and then he started to slide down the slope... He seemed very tired and exhausted.

"He slid feet-first backwards down the slope for about 100metres then he... went into freefall and vanished into the mist."

Greater Manchester Coroner Alan Walsh said Mr Hartley had died in a "tragic, devastating accident" during a "freak change of weather" that could not have been foreseen.

On behalf of Richard's wife Fiona, friend Emma-Jane Lawrence has started a Just Giving page to raise money for the Red Cross. She wrote on the page: "Richard died at the end of June 2013, whilst on a week-long hiking holiday.

"He was killed instantly when he slipped hundreds of feet whilst hiking with a friend in the Austrian Alps. The Red Cross provided unstinting help and support following the accident and therefore Fiona has requested donations to the Red Cross in lieu of flowers."

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