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Second avalanche victim named as RAF officer who served in Iraq, Afghanistan

The second of three people killed in an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands has been named by the Ministry of Defence.

Flight Lieutenant Fran Capps, 32, originally from Dulverton, Somerset, was killed in the accident in the Cairngorms.

She is the second of the three victims to be named after police yesterday identified the first as RAF Squadron leader Rimon Than, 33, who was based at RAF Valley, North Wales, and was a colleague of Prince William.

The three were airlifted from the Chalamain Gap area to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary shortly after 12.30pm on Thursday but died of their injuries.

The avalanche struck as two groups of six climbers made their way up opposite sides of a gorge.

Police, Cairngorm mountain rescue team, Cairngorm mountain ski patrol, search and rescue dogs, RAF Lossiemouth's rescue team and three helicopters were involved in the rescue operation.

Flt Lt Capps was commissioned into the Royal Air Force in 2001 as a logistics officer and worked on a variety of Royal Air Force stations, the MoD said.

Most recently she had worked with the Chinook Force at Royal Air Force Odiham, and she had previously served on operational tours in Iraq, the Falkland Islands, Afghanistan and Qatar.

RAF colleagues paid tribute to Flt Lt Capps, who was described as "an exceptional person".

Group Captain Dominic Toriati, the Station Commander at Royal Air Force Odiham, said: "Flight Lieutenant Fran Capps was an exceptionally dedicated Royal Air Force officer and logistician who was well known throughout the service for her remarkable commitment, her joie de vivre and her utter professionalism."

Wing Commander Ian Richardson, chairman of the RAF Mountaineering Association, said: "Flight Lieutenant Fran Capps was a bubbly and enthusiastic member of the committee and Association.

"Fran was always smiling, always enthusiastic, always welcoming and always willing to get involved and share her love of the hills with everyone in the Association and beyond. She will be sorely missed."

Flt Lt Capps was an experienced mountaineer, having taken part in a expedition in the Indian Himalayas and led a group on an expedition that circumnavigated Mount Kenya and summited Point Lenana.

Her commanding officer, Officer Commanding Logistics Squadron, Squadron Leader Georgina Mews said: "Fran was an exceptional person to know, having unbounded passion and energy and being loved by everyone on the Squadron. Her loss will be felt across the whole Logistics Community and wider."

Mark Diggins, co-ordinator of the SportScotland Avalanche Information Service, yesterday said rescue teams had worked "incredibly hard" to dig out and locate the three casualties as quickly as possible.

He said it has been a "challenging" winter in the area in terms of the weather conditions.

"There have been violent winds, very changeable conditions and that has an effect on the snow pack," he said.

"That's the situation that we had, and still have, in that there is a weakness deep down that is sort of hidden by the fresh deposits of wind-slab snow that are above that layer."

Mr Diggins advised people to keep an eye on the daily avalanche report if they are heading to the mountains.

The accident was the latest to cause fatalities on the Scottish mountains since the turn of the year.

Earlier this week, a hillwalker died during an expedition with a mountaineering club in the Cairngorms.

Graham Connell, 31, from Castleford, West Yorkshire, was found dead in the Jacob's Ladder area on Monday, following a large-scale search for him and five other people who were reported overdue on Sunday afternoon.

In a separate incident earlier this month, three men survived falling 150 metres in an avalanche in the Coire an t-Sneachda area of the Cairngorms.

In January, four people were killed in an avalanche in Glencoe.

Hospital doctor Rachel Majumdar, 29; PhD student Tom Chesters, 28; Christopher Bell, 24, also a PhD student; and 25-year-old junior doctor Una Finnegan died after they were caught up in an avalanche on January 19.

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