Dutch prince critically injured in skiing accident

GEORGE JAHN AND TOBY STERLING
Last updated 12:11 19/02/2012
Reuters

Netherlands' royals stay close to Prince Johan Friso, in hospital after a skiing accident leaves him in a "stable but life-threatening" condition.

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The second son of Dutch Queen Beatrix spent a stable night in the hospital after he was seriously injured in an avalanche, but his life remains in danger, the Netherlands government has revealed.

Prince Johan Friso, 43, was rushed to the intensive care unit of Innsbruck's main hospital yesterday (NZ time) after he was buried under snow. He had been skiing off marked trails in the westernmost Lech winter sports region.

The statement early today (NZ time) said "his life is still in danger, but he had a calm and stable night."

Hospital officials did not issue a statement on the prince's condition. But the usually well-informed Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad said the prince suffered serious oxygen deprivation.

The paper quoted Claudius Thome, head of neurosurgery at the hospital, as saying Friso did not suffer a skull fracture or any other external injuries.

The only serious problem appeared to be lack of oxygen, with Friso being buried for 20 minutes and the fact that the on-scene reanimation took "pretty long," he was quoted as saying.

Thome was quoted as saying that Friso's body temperature was only 32 degrees Celsius and that was "reasonably positive" because when temperatures are lower the body can make do with less oxygen.

Thome's remarks were reportedly made to the surgeon husband of Handelsblad reporter Jannetje Koelewijn. The paper said both were in Lech when the accident occured and later in Innsbruck.

After rushing to the hospital from Lech, the queen and Friso's wife, Princess Mabel, paid another visit to the intensive care ward where Friso was being treated. Both women were dressed in black and wearing sunglasses. Mabel put her arm protectively around the queen's shoulders as the two passed a line of waiting journalists without saying anything.

The accident happened early Friday afternoon as the prince was on slopes away from the marked ski runs and laden with snow after weeks of record falls. His companion, an unidentified Austrian, escaped unhurt.

The Lech municipal office said a regional avalanche warning issued for the day was four on the five-point scale, meaning the danger was high.

Spokeswoman Pia Herbst of the Lech region tourist authority said rescuers found Friso through signals of an avalanche transceiver on his body.

Friso was in Lech along with other members of the royal family, whose members ski regularly there. The upscale resort area has also been a popular winter holiday destination for Tom Cruise, the late Princess Diana and other celebrities.

The second of Beatrix's three sons, Friso gave up any claim to the Dutch throne to marry Dutch commoner Mabel Wisse Smit, in 2004. The pair has two daughters, Luana and Zaria. He most recently worked as financial director at Urenco, the European uranium-enrichment consortium.

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- AP

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