A French skier who killed a five-year-old British girl after slamming into her at a resort in the Alps has been charged with manslaughter.
Prosecutors in the nearby town of Bonneville said the accident had been caused by the experienced skier’s excessive speed, and charged a 40-year-old local man with manslaughter late on Monday after an inquiry was launched that morning.
The incident took place as the girl was learning to ski late on Saturday morning in Flaine, northwest of Chamonix.
The public prosecutor told local newspaper Le Dauphiné: “This is a man totally unknown to judicial authorities, who is clearly also devastated by the accident.”
An autopsy also took place on Monday morning establish the exact cause of death. Local TV network France 3 Regions said initial reports suggested “a very violent shock”, and that the results would be passed on to the judge. The skier risks up to three years in imprisonment and a €45,000 fine, France 3 Regions said.
The badly wounded girl died onboard a helicopter that was rushing her to hospital despite attempt at resuscitation after she was plunged into immediate cardiopulmonary arrest. She had been taking part in a lesson organised by the French Ski School (ESF) with four other children.
The public prosecutor for Bonneville told France Bleu that the child was in single file behind the group and was about to make a right turn when she was “very violently” hit by a skier arriving at high speed who tried unsuccessfully to avoid her.
The accident was said to have taken place at the edge of the piste during clear weather.
The girl had been on a skiing holiday with her parents who live in Geneva and own a holiday home in nearby Carroz, Le Dauphiné reported.
The man, a volunteer firefighter, tried to give first aid to the girl immediately after the accident with the assistance of a local doctor, the paper said.
The ski instructor, who was questioned as a witness, was not found to be at fault in any way, Le Dauphiné said.
Jean-Paul Constant, the mayor of local municipality Arâches, said: “Everyone was very shocked.” He said staff at the resort and in the ski school would be provided with counselling and he was also looking for a psychologist who speaks English to assist the girl’s family, who have returned to Geneva.