THE big brother of a popular student killed by an avalanche in Scotland has spoken of how he declined the chance to go on the tragic trip.

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Ben Chesters, who lost sibling Tom, 28, in the accident near Glencoe on Saturday, has launched a fundraising bid in his memory – and described the response as “staggering”.

District council employee Ben, 34, of Betjeman Close in Sidmouth, and his family were touched to see a JustGiving page set up on Wednesday receive £3,000 in donations within hours.

Ben wants to net cash for the mountain rescue team involved in the incident, which also claimed the lives of Tom’s girlfriend and two friends, by taking on the Grizzly Run in March.

“We are one of four families who are victims of a tragic accident,” said Ben.

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

“We discussed me going on the trip when Tom was down at Christmas.

“I’m glad for my parents’ sake I wasn’t there. It could have been twice as big a tragedy for our family in a slightly different set of circumstances.

“In a way this spurs me on more [with fundraising].

“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’s dad, John, 61, of Slade Close in Ottery St Mary, thanked well-wishers for the messages of support from around the country.

He said: “Tom was doing something he loved, in a place he loved, with the girl he loved.

“He had half-mentioned that Ben should go with him, but he declined,” added John. “We are grateful for that. To lose one son is bad enough.”

Tom, a former student at 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.

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

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