THE family of a popular student killed by an avalanche in Scotland have described the response to a fundraising effort in his memory as “staggering”.

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Nearly £3,000 had yesterday been donated to a JustGiving page in honour of Tom Chesters, 28, within hours of it being set up - as glowing tributes were paid from across the country.

Tom, who grew up in Ottery St Mary, died along with his girlfriend Rachel Majumdar, 29, and two other pals in the accident near Glencoe on Saturday.

“He was doing something he loved, in a place he loved, with the girl he loved,” his dad, John, told the Herald.

John and his wife Ruth, of Slade Close, said they “feared the worst” when they heard of the incident on the early evening news.

Those fears were realised when police visited their home to deliver bad news at midnight.

Tom’s big brother Ben, who declined the chance to go on the tragic trip, now wants to net cash for the mountain rescue team involved by taking on the Grizzly Run in March.

“Tom had half-mentioned that Ben should go with him, but he declined,” said John, who thanked well-wishers for messages of support.

“We are grateful for that. To lose one son is bad enough.”

He described the amount of money contributed towards 34-year-old Ben’s bid as “phenomenal”.

“There have been so many glowing comments about Tom,” he added.

District council employee Ben, who lives in Sidmouth, said: “We are one of four families who are victims of a tragic accident.

“It’s motivated me to get some good out of something awful.

“Tom ran the Grizzly, it’s an event he liked, and they have a memorial for absent friends.

“It’s been quite hard, but touching, to read all the messages on the JustGiving page. People’s generosity has been staggering and I know Tom would be humbled by that.”

Tom, a former student at Ottery St Mary Primary School and The King’s School, was studying for a PhD in medical engineering in Hull.

He was said to be one of Britain’s best competitive orienteerers with a promising future.

Tom was among a group of six experienced climbers who were descending Bidean Nam Bian on Saturday when the avalanche struck at about 2pm.

Jeff Abbott, 28, who was a school friend of Tom, said: “He was one of those guys who you just couldn’t help but like and admire - you never heard anyone have a bad word to say about him.

“I know how sorely he will be missed.”

● To back Ben’s Grizzly bid visit: www.justgiving.com/Ben-Chesters

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