A five-year-old girl who watched her parents fall off a cliff told rescuers sent to recover the bodies she did not want to leave the mountain because “I want to wait for mum and dad”.
The family from Milan were walking with friends in Camonica Valley in the Italian region of Lombardy when tragedy struck after they were forced to leave the footpath because an avalanche had blocked part of it.
The mum, Valeria Coletta, 35, was the first to slip and her husband, Fabrizio Martino Marchi, 40, had tried to stop her fall.
Both tumbled over the cliff in front of their horrified five-year-old daughter and two friends.
According to reports, it was clear that rescue attempts were almost useless right from the start as both fell hundreds of metres and it was later found they had died instantly.
The bodies were recovered by a rescue helicopter that was working together with the fire brigade, police and volunteers who also tried to help the girl and two friends the family had been with to leave the peak.
Alpine Rescues Volunteer Gianluca Dovina said the little girl and the two adults that were friends did not realise the seriousness of the situation so it was also hard for the child.
“The little girl told me she wanted to wait for her mom and dad,” she said.
It took five hours to recover the bodies and their daughter has since been handed over to her grandparents.
A fundraiser by their friends has raised $460,000 so far.
“A life path interrupted by a tragic accident, two lives suddenly broken without a reason, which leave an unbridgeable void,” organiser Marlene Martinelli wrote.
“Fabry and Vale were building, planning and organising a bright future for their family and their little girl, Martina.
“This collection was created to continue to pursue the life mission of Fabry and Vale, to give Martina a happy future exactly as the two parents wanted it to be.”
Ms Martinelli said she met Valeria and Fabrizio almost 10 years ago.
“Fabrizio and Valeria have been two reference figures in my life and have helped me in many difficult moments. They took my daughter to heart as if they were uncles and always protected and supported me,” she said.
“They became friends, confidants, family, and would soon be my witnesses. Over the years I have known every member of their family and I am sure that Martina will be surrounded by love as she grows up.
“This fundraiser stems from the clearest of motivations, the desire to help Martina in her growth and from the awareness that the couple would do the same to protect my daughter.
“While an economic contribution cannot alleviate the pain of such a tragedy, being able to help alleviate any economic worries is all we can do and desire for the family overwhelmed by this drama.”
An investigation into the death is continuing but no foul play is suspected.