Prince Johan Friso critically injured in avalanche

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Dutch Prince Johan Friso is in a critical but stable condition at an intensive care unit in an Innsbruck hospital after being buried by an avalanche while skiing in Austria.

Rescue crews pulled the 43-year-old prince from under an avalanche that had buried him 15 minutes earlier near the ski resort of Lech, the Dutch Government Information Service says. The prince was reanimated before being taken to hospital by helicopter. Doctors are not expected to be able to give a further prognosis for several days.

The avalanche occurred around noon near Litzen-Zugertobel, close to Lech, the resort where the Royal Family have spent many winter holidays since the 1950s. The accident happened while the prince was outside the piste, Lech Mayor Ludwig Muxel said. No one else has been reported missing.

Over the past few days the Austrian Alps have seen heavy snowfall, raising the risk of avalanches. As part of a daily routine, the local authorities had issued the second-highest avalanche level out of five levels. The federal state of Tirol had launched an “urgent” advice to skiers not to stray outside the pistes. Since the accident occurred, skiing outside the pistes has been forbidden.

The prince lacked an avalanche safety device, comparable to airbags used in cars. But he did have a transceiver, which allowed the rescue services to locate him under the snow within minutes of their arrival at the scene. A friend who was skiing with the prince did have an avalanche safety device and was able to raise the alarm. Local media say the two were hit by an avalanche of 30 by 40 metres.

People familiar with the Royal Family describe the prince as an experienced skier but also as a risk taker who likes to ski off the pistes. Some years ago, he was detained driving a car at over 200 kilometres per hour.

Prince Johan Friso is the middle son of Queen Beatrix. His older brother is Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his younger brother is Prince Constantijn. Prince Johan Friso gave up his rights to the Dutch throne in 2004 after marrying human rights activist Mabel Wisse Smit.

The government refused to endorse the marriage because the couple had given misleading information about the bride's relationship with a deceased gangster. Under Dutch law, royals aspiring to the throne must receive permission from the government and parliament to marry because the cabinet is officially responsible for their actions and statements.

The couple have two young daughters, Luana and Zaria.


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