Mountaineer Finds Jewels Atop French Alps From 1966 Plane Crash Victim

Friday, 27 Sep 2013 04:54 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A mountaineer who found jewels atop the French Alps has turned the precious gems over to authorities.

The gems, which included emeralds, rubies, and sapphires, were estimated to be worth up to $332,000, the AFP reported.

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The unidentified, young French mountaineer reportedly stumbled across a metal box that contained the gems as he climbed Mont Blanc – the highest mountain in the Alps and in the European Union.

Inside the box, the Frenchman found numerous satchels filled with jewels, some of which were labeled "Made in India," linking them to one of two Air India flights that had crashed in the region in 1950 and 1966. More than 150 people were killed between the two flights, the Guardian noted.

The mountaineer brought the gems to a local police station as soon as he got to the bottom of the mountain.

"This was an honest young man who very quickly realized that they belonged to someone who died on the glacier," local Police Chief Sylvain Merly told the AFP. "He could have kept them but he preferred to give them to the police."

"Maybe he didn't want to keep something that had belonged to someone who died. So he handed it in," Merly added.

According to the police chief, the box was found in a region known as the Bossons glacier, where in recent years several other mountaineers have found "all sorts of remnants" from the Air India crashes, such as shoes, letters, plane fragments, and human remains from the two flights.

The jewels are believed to have belonged to passengers on the 1966 Boeing 707 flight from Mumbai to New York that crashed near the summit of Mont Blanc, killing 117 people onboard, including the pioneer of India's nuclear program, the Guardian noted.

In an attempt to find the rightful owner of the gems, the prefect's office of Savoie will contact Indian authorities.

If the jewels' rightful owner is not established, the precious gems will be returned to the mountaineer under French law, the French paper Dauphiné Libéré reported.

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