As It Happens

'It was quite a shock,' says Swiss ski resort owner who found bodies frozen in ice after 75 years

The bodies of a couple who went missing 75 years ago were discovered on a glacier at a ski resort in Switzerland.
A police officer looks at the remains of a Swiss couple found on a glacier. The couple went missing 75 years ago. (Glacier 3000)

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Staff at Switzerland's Glacier 3000 ski resort thought it was going to be another predictable day up in the mountains, doing maintenance work by the ski lifts.

But last week, one worker saw what appeared to be very large black stones on a glacier. And when he decided to take a closer look, he found that they weren't stones at all.

Instead, lying on the glacier were the bodies of Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin, a Swiss couple who went missing 75 years ago

Bernhard Tschannen, the CEO of Glacier 3000 went out to see the bodies the next day. He told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann more about the discovery. 

Helen Mann: Tell us what was discovered near a ski lift on your resort last week.

Bernhard Tschannen: So last Thursday, late afternoon, one of our staff from Glacier 3000 found two bodies on the glacier. It happened while he was doing some maintenance work on the glacier and the ski lift. He was driving a slope machine, and by doing that he was looking at the glacier and he saw some stones, something black.

He thought it was strange. It was too big to be stones. He went closer and he could see it was two dead bodies. He [first] found the backpack, a man's shoe and two ladies' shoes and a water bottle. It was quite a shock for him. 

HM: It must have been not only shocking for the man who had made the discovery, but for you as well to get up there and see what he had found. 

BT: Absolutely. I was a bit prepared. He was thinking that he was looking at stones and then suddenly, it was two dead bodies coming out of the glacier. I already saw them in the pictures.

To see the bodies, they were mummified and in good shape and the clothes were very well conserved. It was a big surprise, but not a real shock.

In this photo released by the Swiss train company ' Glacier 3000' shoes and clothing are visible at a Swiss glacier where two bodies were found. Police say the bodies of what appear to be two people killed in an accident decades ago have been recovered from a glacier in southwestern Switzerland. (Glacier 3000/Keystone/Associated Press)

HM: How quickly did the police or anyone else realize who these people likely were? 

BT: When we saw the two dead people, a man and a woman, we were quickly thinking it was already decades ago. We were thinking 70 to 90 years, looking at the clothes.

Our staff knew as well that there were two people from the other side of the glacier —  a couple [who] was missing since a long time ago. It's now confirmed that it's a husband and a wife who had a farm on the Bernese side.

They went over the Glacier 3000 [area] to cross it to go to the farm. The plan was to come back the same day or the day after. But sadly, on the 15th of August, 1942, they were missing since then and they never came back.

There is some happy end that finally the glacier gave back the two bodies by melting and that the family knows what happened 75 years ago.- Bernhard Tschannen, CEO of Glacier 3000

The family was looking for them for two months, but then the winter came and they had to stop the rescue search.

The very sad part was they had seven kids which were left behind. Today, there are two of the seven kids living — two daughters — who are quite happy now that they know what happened to their parents 75 years ago and they finally can say goodbye to them. 

HM: Do you know if they kept looking for their parents? 

BT: They said they kept looking for their parents and their grandparents. Some of my staff said that they talked a few years ago to a gentleman who informed them that he was looking for their grandparents and they probably will come out one day. 

I would say that this story is very sad [because] two people had to die in a crevice, leaving behind seven kids. There is some happy end that finally the glacier gave back the two bodies by melting and that the family knows what happened 75 years ago. 

Guests walk along the 'Peak Walk' bridge during a media preview, at the Glacier 3000 in Les Diablerets October 24, 2014. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

HM: Do you know why it's taken so long for the bodies to be discovered? 

BT: The glacier — 70 to 80 years ago —  was much bigger than today. We believe that they fell in a crevice and they died in this crevice. Seventy years ago, the glacier was quite stable or even growing a little bit. The last 10, 20 years, the glacier lost in size. 

HM: Are cases like this common in the Swiss Alps? 

BT: Common, we cannot say. I think there will be some more bodies coming out of the glacier as they're generally melting with the climate change. 

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity. You can listen to Helen Mann's full conversation with Bernhard Tschannen above. 

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