Witness emerges in deadly Althaus accident

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5 Jan, 2009 Updated Mon 5 Jan 2009 12:16 CEST
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Police are questioning a single witness in the ski collision that seriously injured Thuringia’s state premier Dieter Althaus and killed a Slovakian woman on New Year’s Day. Meanwhile doctors have said that the politician can’t remember how the accident occurred.

The 50-year-old state premier was successfully revived from his artificial coma over the weekend and was able to speak and move his limbs in a hospital in the Austrian town of Schwarzach. But Althaus, under investigation for involuntary manslaughter, does not remember what happened on the day of the fatal accident, medical director of the hospital Rheinhard Lenzhofer told news agency DDP on Monday.

According to police, visibility was good at the time of the accident, and both skiers, described as experienced, had been travelling at a medium pace. Althaus, who initially remained conscious, requested that the woman be treated first, and was only examined later at the bottom of the slope, where emergency medics were called. The state premier then lost consciousness during the helicopter journey to the nearest clinic, which was delayed by poor light.

Meanwhile Austrian public prosecutor Walter Plöbst told German daily Bild on Monday that a single witness had contacted police and was being questioned about the incident.

The accident was so unlikely that this week’s edition of news magazine Der Spiegel questions whether Althaus was somehow confused into going the wrong direction.

The collision, at the intersection of novice and intermediate ski runs, occurred at a place “where man wouldn’t actually go,” Erwin Petz, head of lift operation for the Riesneralm ski resort, which is near the resort where the accident occurred, told the magazine.

The New Year’s Day accident at the Austrian Obersteiermark ski area is a “riddle” for state prosecutors to look into, the magazine reported, adding that it is unlikely the fatally injured 41-year-old Slovakian woman caused the incident.

“Did Althaus lose his orientation on his descent, did he curve a bit past the adjoining underbrush? Or did he intentionally steer onto the blue run like a kind of Geistfahrer?” the magazine asked, using a term that describes those who drive into oncoming traffic.

The results of the autopsy on the Slovakian woman killed in the accident will be released on Monday.



2009/01/05 12:16

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