Schumacher was going at speed ‘of a good skier’

Michael Schumacher was only metres from the piste at a French ski resort when he fell and cracked his head on a rock, French prosecutors said on Wednesday, telling the media that faulty skis and bad signage were not to blame and that they were not too concerned by his speed.

Schumacher was going at speed 'of a good skier'
Schumacherwas not skiing recklessly a French newspaper claimed on Wednesday, pointingto images from his helmet-cam which prooved he was not speeding. Photo: Jose Jordan/AFP

French prosecutors investigating Michael Schumacher's skiing accident said on Wednesday that the skiers speed was "not a particularly important factor to them".

Albertville prosecutor Patrick Quincy, told media in Albertville that Schumacher was going at an appropriate speed for a skier of his level when he fell and hit his head on a rock just a few metres off-piste.

The camera attached to Schumacher's helmet revealed that he was descending at the speed of "a very good skier on fairly hard terrain" although the fomer Formula 1 driver "did not look to reduce his speed when he went off-piste".

Schumacher was only around 8 metres off-piste between a red and blue run when he hit a rock beneath the snow causing him to fall and smash his head against another rock. His helmet was split in two by the impact.

Investigators probing the accident are seeking to determine why it happened, and whether anyone — the resort, the ski rental shop, Schumacher himself – is at fault.

Speculation had centred around whether his skis may have been faulty but investigators also they were not the cause his life-threatening  fall and that signs marking the boundary of the piste Schumacher skied off just before the accident were in line with legal requirements.

The French investigators also said there was no evidence shown onthe video footage to suggest Schumacher had given help to a fallen skier moments before he fell himself, as had been reported.

It emerged last week that Schumacher had been wearing a camera strapped to his ski helmet when he fell,and a source close to the probe said on Tuesday that footage from the device could be intact and valuable to the inquiry.

It had been unclear until now whether the camera was working at the time ofthe accident, or whether the footage would be clear enough to use. It could be vital in helping investigators determine the speed.

"It's an important document," said the source, who wished to remainanonymous.

Prosecutors are also looking at whether the limits of the ski runs next tothe accident site were correctly marked and whether the rock in question was lying close enough to the piste to require some kind of protection or signage.

They are also examining whether the safety releases on Schumacher's skisoperated properly.

A German flight steward had also told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine thathe had inadvertently filmed Schumacher at the time of the accident and that the racing champion had been going at a maximum speed of about 20 kilometres (12 miles) per hour.

He had told the magazine he would hand over the footage to French police,which he has not done so far, the source said.

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Dad’s ‘miracle escape’ after being buried by avalanche in French Alps

A man out walking with his family in the French Alps has made a miraculous escape from an avalanche after spending more than two and a half hours trapped under snow, rescuers said.

Dad's 'miracle escape' after being buried by avalanche in French Alps
Ski lifts in France are closed, but visitors and locals are free to enjoy other outdoor sports. Photo: AFP

The 50-year-old father was snowshoeing near the high-altitude Val d'Isere ski resort with his wife and two children on Thursday without anti-avalanche safety equipment.

“Thank to the mobilisation of nearly 100 people… the man was found alive after two hours and 40 minutes of searching,” the police for the local Savoie département announced on Twitter.

Because of the depth of the snow, rescue dogs were unable to detect a trace, but the man was eventually dug out by a specialised mountain police team which used a Wolfhound device to locate his mobile phone under the ice.

“I think it's a miracle,” Alexandre Grether from the PGHM rescue team told the France 3 local news channel, adding that the man was found 2.5 metres (eight feet) below the surface.

The chances of survival after more than 20 minutes in an avalanche are usually slim.

“He was protected by a tree, that's what prevented him from being crushed by all the ice that slid down. The snow had surrounded him, but he had a pocket of air,” he explained.

The victim is expected to make a full recovery after suffering a fracture to his hip.

The avalanche risk on Thursday was at its maximum – five on a scale of five – and rescuers urge people to always check the snow conditions before venturing out.

READ ALSO 'Whole season a write-off' – what next for France's ski resorts?

Ski lifts in the Alps, which have seen some of their heaviest snowfalls in years in January, are currently closed because of restrictions imposed by the government to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Visitors and locals are free to enjoy hiking, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing, but occupancy levels in hotels and chalets are way down and business owners and seasonal staff face serious hardships.

The government has promised an economic support package for the sector.