AVALANCHE victim John Taylor was a kind, gentle man, who was well-loved and had many friends, his boss has said.

Cath Purdy, chief executive of the Vela Group, where Mr Taylor work, said his colleagues and friends had been left devastated by the tragedy.

Mr Taylor and his friend Steve Barber, both of Pear Tree Avenue in Poppleton, died in the French avalanche at 5am yesterday.

Mr Taylor was Director of Resources at Vela, a housing organisation based in the North East.

Ms Purdy said: "This is an enormous tragedy and all John’s many work friends have been left absolutely devastated by his death.

"He died doing something that he loved, climbing was his real passion. He was planning a charity expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro in February next year.

"Everyone at Vela shares with me an absolute sense of loss and sadness. Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s wife Karine and his two children at this incredibly sad time and we will offer them any support they need.

"John was a kind, gentle man, who was well-loved and always had time for his many friends. He was instrumental in creating the Vela Group and helping us to deliver quality homes for families across the Tees Valley.”

Mr Taylor had previously been finance director of Tristar Homes and had over 20 years experience in housing and construction, said a Vela spokeswoman.

He was responsible for Vela's finances, human resources, corporate services and governance arrangements.

He played a leading role in Tristar’s successful transfer from Stockton Borough Council and in the creation of the Vela Housing Group. He had also been a mentor for the Prince’s Trust and for Teesside University’s Diversitees Scheme.