The heartbroken parents of a popular Chesterfield man who died after he went missing in the Alps have told how they will be doing everything to support his pregnant wife.
David, 59, and Barbara Rollett, 57, were devastated when their 35-year-old son Steven Rollet, of Manor Road, Brimington, was reported missing following an off-piste snowboarding crash and they endured a harrowing 23 day-wait before his body was found.
Plumber Steven, whose wife Nicola is 30 weeks pregnant, had gone snowboarding with friends to Meribel, in France, when he plunged into deep snow and became stuck and by the time friends returned with help there was no trace of him. Mrs Rollett said: “We’re devastated. Nicola has lost her soul-mate. She is absolutely gutted. She’s trying to be strong because she’s got to look after their baby.
“While they were still looking for Steve she was harbouring hopes of him still being found alive. Now we will have to do what we can for Steve and Nicola and our grandchildren. Our focus is on looking after Nicola with her parents who have been very good.
“Steve and Nicola’s new baby girl will be the light at the end of the tunnel. Steve was so excited about having a baby daughter and in a way he can live on through her and we take comfort from that.”
Steven, who also has a 14-year-old son from a previous relationship, had arrived at the ski resort on Saturday, January 31, with friends and enjoyed an afternoon snowboarding before three of them including Steven decided to use a popular off-piste slope.
Mr Rollett said: “There were others using the slope and there was nothing to indicate it was dangerous. Unfortunately, Steve veered off to an area which was like a basin and it was full of a lot of snow and he became stuck and couldn’t get out.
“His friends could see him and were talking to him and trying to tell him where to go but he was on an uphill slope and he was struggling to get out. They went to get help and by this time the resort was coming to a standstill but they kept the ski slopes open to allow the boys to go back to pinpoint where he was to the rescuers but by this time he had disappeared.”
Despite a three-hour search, the resort’s security team, a mountain rescue team and a helicopter could not find Steven as snow came in over Saturday, January 31, and Sunday, February 1.
One of Steven’s friends alerted his family while his parents were in Spain and David and his brother Ray got flights to France and the Alpine Ethos Ltd chalet managers took them to where Steven and his friends had been staying by Monday, February 2.
Mr Rollett added: “We were beside ourselves and got flights to France and the chalet. By 5pm the same day, mountain rescue people came and told us there was no sign that Steve would be found alive after he had been missing two days and it was now a case of waiting to see if his body turned up.”
Steven’s dad David and uncle Ray returned home to support their family and had to wait a gruelling 23 days before police visited and told them Steven’s body had been found by a ski instructor on Monday, February 23.
Mr Rollett added: “We received the peace of knowing he had been found and I believe he died from hypothermia. The chalet managers had been very supportive and the rescuers had done all they could and didn’t leave a stone unturned.
“They had even gone into areas they shouldn’t because there was a high risk of avalanche and one of them had even got stuck and needed to be pulled out. So we’re very grateful for everything they did.”
Former Netherthorpe School pupil Steven, who ran R&R Heating and Plumbing with a business partner, was an experienced snowboarder who also enjoyed mountain biking and was a Beatles and Formula One racing fan.
His wife Nicola said: “He was my whole world and my life will never be the same without him. He was the most wonderful and amazing person I have ever known and he will live on forever in his daughter I carry. He’s left a hole in my heart that will never be filled. RIP my beautiful husband, I will love you always.”
Steven’s body is expected to be released by the French authorities following a post mortem examination and an inquest and a report is expected to be considered by a British coroner.
A funeral is expected to take place this month on a date to be fixed. Those awaiting details are advised to contact Wetton Funeral Service on (01246) 232966 and keep posted to the Derbyshire Times and the newspaper’s website www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk.
Steven also leaves a son Bradley Annetts, from a previous relationship, a sister Louise Biggs, brother-in-law Gavin Biggs, an Uncle Ray Rollett, two nieces and a nephew.
Mrs Rollet said: “He was an extremely hard-working man who was a popular, great guy who would do anyone a favour. There have been dozens of kind comments and tributes on Facebook from all his friends and he was so well-liked and that has been a great comfort.”
The devastated parents of deceased snowboarder Steven Rollett have warned others to arm themselves with a beacon alert system if they go on holiday in the Alps.
Steven, of Chesterfield, became lost in a steep area called Est du Roc de Fer but reports stated that his phone had run out of battery and he had not been equipped with an avalanche transceiver.
After Steven’s arrival at the Meribel resort, in France, and his disappearance, the Alps were put on high danger alert and conditions were described as treacherous following heavy snowfall.
His father David said: “We want to urge people in the Alps to have beacons if they go off-piste because if Steve had had one of these the rescuers would have found him.
“If some good can come out of this situation we want more people to use these beacons.”
Fifteen people had died in avalanches in Europe during the three days running up to Steven’s disappearance.
The rescue team which had searched for Steven described searching the area concerned as like “looking for a needle in a haystack”.
Steven was discovered on February 23 by a ski instructor who spotted his snowboard sticking out of the snow.
Picture courtesy of John Pashley, West Bar Photography.