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Prince Johan Friso in stable coma—no fractured skull

A day after he was buried by an avalanche in Austria, Dutch Prince Johan Friso remains in critical condition. Doctors deny that he suffered a fractured skull but are worried about the effects of prolonged asphyxia on the prince's brain. The prince is at an intensive care unit of the Innsbruck hospital he was taken to on Friday immediately after being rescued.

Here is a summary of the latest developments.

• There has been no change in the prince’s condition, the medical team attending the prince says. He had a quiet night and is in a stable condition. Team leader Dr Claudius Thomé has told Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad that the prince had a body temperature of 32 degrees Celsius when he was found.

• Contradicting earlier reports, Dr Thomé said that the prince was not suffering from a fractured skull. The main problem, he said, was that the prince had been cut off from oxygen for 20 minutes until he was pulled from under the snow. 

• He is being kept in a coma, a procedure that is standard in such cases. Brain scans made after the accident did not show any damage, Dr Thomé said.

• It is expected to take another 24 hours before doctors can establish whether the prince has suffered any brain damage.

• The medical team has requested the number of visitors be limited, the Dutch Government Information Service says.

• The prince’s mother, Queen Beatrix, and his wife, Mabel Wisse Smit, visited the prince on Saturday afternoon. They were dressed in black and visibly distressed. Some 60 reporters awaited the two at the hospital. After two hours both returned to the inn in Lech where the Royal Family are staying, the same one where they have been spending many winter sports holidays since the 1950s. The accident happened on a mountain slope near the village in Western Austria.

• The prince’s elder brother, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander has conveyed the Royal Family’s gratitude for the many expressions of sympathy they received since news of the accident emerged. Speaking in German, the crown prince added that the family hoped their privacy would be respected in these difficult circumstances.

• The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, who was due to leave for his winter sports holiday on Saturday morning, has postponed his departure to await further developments.

• The Austrian police have launched an investigation to determine whether the accident was the result of negligence. The procedure is standard after a ski accident, a police spokesperson said. The spokesperson would not say whether the probe focuses on a specific person.

• The slope near the village of Lech where the prince was struck by an avalanche was dangerous, says Michael Mannhart, who is responsible for security on most of Lech’s pistes. But he added that the prince knew exactly what he was doing, as he had been in Lech many times before. “It is absolutely wrong”, he stressed, to blame anyone for the prince’s accident. “Responsibility for skiing outside the pistes rests with each separate individual.”

(cl)

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