updated 7/24/2008 5:00:03 PM ET 2008-07-24T21:00:03

A Dutch woman watched her husband and three children fall to their deaths Thursday while climbing near Mont Blanc, Europe's highest peak, Italian rescuers said.

The 56-year-old man, his son and two daughters plunged 1,600 feet down a slope of rock, ice and snow as their mother watched from below, said Oscar Tajola, head of the mountain rescue corps in the nearby town of Courmayeur. They were roped together.

"We had to take her to hospital because she was in shock," Tajola said by telephone. "We think one of them slipped and pulled the others down."

The woman, 50, was later released from hospital and identified the bodies of her husband and her children, aged 17 to 23, police in the ski-resort town said.

The family was climbing 12,500-foot Mont Dolent, which is part of the Mont Blanc massif. The 15,780-foot Mont Blanc straddles Italy and France and attracts hundreds of climbers a year. Dozens of them die on the massif each year.

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