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The mysterious disappearance of Duncan MacPherson
Wednesday May 13, 2009 - Email this article to a friend

Every now and again we come across a story at PlanetSKI that we think needs to be told. It is a tale of death, allegations of corruption and the plight of parents fighting to discover how their son died.

Duncan's story is not new and has been told several times in the foreign media.  Here at PlanetSKI we've been taking a closer look at it.

In 1989 a 23-year old Canadian ice hockey player, Duncan MacPherson, was snowboarding on his own on the Stubai glacier in Austria.  He’d just had a lesson and had booked another one for the next day.
 
He never turned up for his lesson.
 
14 years later his body was found, frozen, in a crevasse.
 
In that time his parents, Bob and Lynda, fought a long campaign to try to find him, to discover what happpened and came across what they believe was bureaucratic bungling, police intransigence and even corruption. There are accusations of something even more sinister.
 
They claim the authorities had no desire to discover what had happened to their son and wanted the whole incident hushed up to protect the multi-billion euro Austrian tourist industry.

The Austrian authorities though claim they did everything possible to discover what happened to Duncan in what was an extremely difficult case.

The parent's campaign to try to find their son and discover what happened to him took them to Austria nine times.
 
It cost them their life savings and has dominated their lives.
 
Lynda has recently contacted PlanetSKI to tell us about her story. Now we don't have the resources to investigate it fully but we are able to recount her side of the story and have looked into what may have happened.
 
Location of where body discoveredLocation of where body discoveredIn the summer of 2003,14 years after he vanished, Duncan's body emerged out of a melting alpine glacier, right in the middle of a popular ski run.

Just hours after the body's discovery, apparently without a post mortem or a proper investigation, the Austrian authorities announced it was an accident that had killed Duncan.

An accident that was his own fault.

He had simply gone off the marked run on his own and fallen into a crevasse. The parents don’t believe it was as simple as that.

They discovered that a person died on the same glacier in a similar place a year before and if that death had been investigated and lessons learned then Duncan might still be alive today.
 
It is a long, complex story and has been reported in the Canadian media.  The TV network, CBC, made a documentary about the parents’s story.   If you want to read more then take a look at this detailed chronology of events that we have pieced together from the CBC documentary and interviews with Duncan’s mother, Lynda.

Despite the obvious desire of a parent to find out what happened to their child it begs the question why the parents, Lynda and Bob, have continued with their quest to find out exactly what happened and apportion blame.

Lynda, still campaigningLynda, still campaigningLynda’s response is a simple one:

“Through no fault of his own, with his whole life ahead of him, Duncan lost his life snowboarding on a ski slope, which is licensed for summer skiing, and regulated by state agency. His death has not been investigated properly.

Duncan loved life; he believed it was precious. I know he would expect us to do what we can to save someone else from needlessly losing his or her life on this glacier. We believe that if an earlier accident had been investigated in an effective manner, Duncan would not have lost his life there exactly one year later.

A motto of Duncan's was: ‘’The only time you fail, is when you don't try.’ When he played hockey, he used to get into more fights than I liked. Whenever I talked to him about it, he would say, ‘Mom - you don't understand; there are times when you need to stand up for yourself, or for your teammates - and, whether you win or not is not important; what is important is that you show up!’

So in some ways, I guess our twenty-year quest for justice for Duncan's death is about ‘showing up’ in spite of the fact we are up against formidable odds.”


The Austrian authorities have rejected most of Lynda and Bob’s accusations and say they did everything they could to find Duncan when he went missing.

The parents have taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights alleging his rights and freedoms had been violated.  The Court found there was no case to answer.

Whatever the truth it’s a fascinating, and tragic, story.

For a detailed chronology of evens see here.

 

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