Schumacher 'off piste', but equipment didn't fail, say investigators
Investigators provide more detail about F1 champion's skiing accident
THE FRENCH ski slope where Michael Schumacher suffered a serious head injury had been "prepared to national standards" and there is no evidence his equipment failed prior to the accident, investigators have said.
Speaking at a press conference in the French city of Albertville, local prosecutor Patrick Quincy said the former Formula 1 champion was going at "the speed of a good skier" when he fell and hit his head on a rock. The prosecutor added that Schumacher was "only metres" from the piste when he fell and there was no indication that the slope was not properly prepared or marked.
"There are French standards setting rules on safety, signaling, demarcation ..." Quncy said. "The checks we have made show these standards had been respected."
Quincy added: “He [Schumacher] followed the red piste and went off piste. He is evidently an extremely good skier, but one of his skis hit a rock which was sticking out of the piste, causing him to fall and hit his head on a rock. The rock that he hit is eight metres from the piste."
Investigators said they will continue to analyse footage from Schumacher's helmet camera which is "extremely legible". They confirmed that their inquiry will continue over the next couple of weeks.
Schumacher remains in a coma in a French hospital after suffering serious head injuries during the fall on 29 December. And although his condition is still critical, he is now said to be stable after two brain operations.
Messages of support for the racing driver poured in following the accident. One came from Arsenal's footballers, who posed with a T-shirt bearing the solgan "get well soon, Schumi", after their game against Cardiff on New Year's Day.
Intense interest in the story has led to a breach of security at the hospital in Grenoble where the seven-time F1 champion is being treated. On New Year's Eve it was revealed that a journalist dressed up as a priest had tried to sneak into the room where Schumacher was lying. He was caught and thrown out of the hospital.
Here's how the story has panned out so far:
What happened to Schumacher? The former F1 champion hit his head on a rock while skiing off-piste with his 14-year-old son, Mick, at the French resort of Meribel on Sunday. He was wearing a helmet, which saved his life, but did not prevent him from suffering a serious head injury. His helmet was reportedly split in two by the impact. Schumacher's camp has denied claims he was skiing at high speed when the accident took place.
Where is he now? Schumacher was airlifted from the slopes to a hospital in the nearby town of Moutiers. He was conscious and in an "agitated condition" when he arrived there. His condition soon deteriorated and he was later transferred to Grenoble, where he remains in a medically-induced coma. Doctors have operated on him twice to reduce swelling and pressure on the brain. The most recent operation was on Monday.
What sort of injury has he sustained? Health journalist Jeremy Laurance says it is likely that Schumacher "suffered a subdural haematoma as a result of his fall, a bleed in the brain caused by the severing of a blood vessel". Writing in The Independent, he explains that the usual rule of head injuries is that if the victim does not lose consciousness then there should be nothing to worry about, but as the death of Natasha Richardson in another skiing accident four years ago shows, that is not always the case. "The brain is like a blancmange and when it is shaken in the wooden box of the skull the vessels that supply it with blood are vulnerable to rupture," he explains.
What is the latest update? For the first two days of his stay in Grenoble there were daily updates from the hospital, but there have been no press call since Tuesday. That has been interpreted as a good sign and means his condition has not deteriorated, according to Sky. However, he remains in a critical condition.
So what is the prognosis? Nobody is prepared to speculate on what the future holds. Earlier in the week neurosurgeon Catherine McMahon told the BBC: "The induced coma Michael Schumacher is in is to try to stabilise the pressure within the brain, to try to prevent secondary brain damage from occurring. It's likely he will remain in an induced coma for several days, and really the outcome is very, very unclear at this stage." The last medical bulletin came on Tuesday when doctors in France said: "He still remains in a coma and for the moment there is absolutely no question of evaluating him from a neurological point of view and seeing how he will be when he wakes up." ·