Suspended jail for husband that killed wife in avalanche

Suspended jail for husband that killed wife in avalanche
Started by Bandit in Avalanche Safety - 27 Replies
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From the Austrian Independent Newspaper....

A husband has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after he set off an avalanche in which his wife subsequently died as they were on a ski tour in Obertauern, Austria in winter 2010.

The court in Linz, Austria, yesterday found the 65-year-old guilty of the charges after deciding he had set off the avalanche.

His wife, aged 58, had set off first down the slope and then he had followed down the steep off piste slope; but his movement triggered the avalanche which swept his wife to her death on the 2,228 metre high Sichelwand at the Obertauern ski resort.

The man had tried in vain to dig out his wife who was stuck under one metre of snow. When rescuers managed to free her she was already dead. She had massive head injuries and her mouth was full of snow.

In Autumn 2011 the husband was sentenced a three month suspended sentence for involuntary manslaughter. The court told him he should have realized the danger and should not have gone down the mountain, nor allowed his wife to do so.

The man appealed the sentence, and his legal team argued that his wife took the responsibility herself to go down the mountain and she would have been aware of the danger. The woman had her avalanche detector switched off in her rucksack. However the court has now rejected the appeal.

The decision proved very controversial amongst mountain rescue experts who claimed it linked being an alpinist to a criminal offence and took away the element of personal responsibility.
Absolutely tragic.
OldAndy wrote:Tragic.
Absolutely tragic.

And i do not see the point in even prosecuting the guy either.
OldAndy wrote:Tragic.
Absolutely tragic.

I think the Court is right.

I'm assuming that the phrase "avalanche detector" means Transceiver BTW.

Why did he follow her down the slope...

Without doing equipment checks, which would have shown she was not wearing her Transceiver?

Without agreeing a strategy for the slope. He skied above her, either directly or at an angle.

Without waiting for her to reach an island of safety?

If the slope was sufficiently unstable to be set off by 1 skier, the local weather and slope information would have indicated the risk. They still went.
I don't really have enough knowledge of off piste skiing and avalanche safety to offer an informed opinion to be honest but i see it this way.

The wife put herself in a dangerous environment, she knew what she was doing. And she chose not to wear her transceiver. I don't really see how the husband can be held responsible for that.
I am sure people check each others kit but in reality it is you that is responsible for your own safety.

How do we know they hadn't agreed a strategy and it was simply flawed? Perhaps they believed the snow pack to be stable and simply got it wrong as many people do.

My point was that the guy had lost his wife and he knows he had some part in that and will have to live with that for the remainder of his life. Prosecuting him won't bring any benefit to society in my opinion.

A coroners enquiry was all that was required. If they have them there.
The European Courts are starting to take notice of poor and irresponsible off piste behaviour. Earlier this year, a French Prosecutor wanted a 5 year ban for 2 ESF Instructors, after the Orelle Avalanche, which killed an ESF client.

Details at PisteHors, the outcome is at the bottom of the page.
Snapzzz wrote:The wife put herself in a dangerous environment, she knew what she was doing. And she chose not to wear her transceiver. I don't really see how the husband can be held responsible for that.

I see where you're coming from, but a transceiver is utterly useless if you're only using one in a group. Avi safety is, by definition, a group responsibility - you all have to look out for each other.

Just the act of checking each other's transceivers might have given them the mental nudge to remember the other essentials.

As utterly tragic as this case is, at least the decision to prosecute has highlighted the fact that it was avoidable. The "light" sentence, I guess, recognises the guy's loss.

Bandit cut straight to the point(s) - transceiver checks should be as second-nature as stepping into your bindings, as should letting skiers below you clear the slope before you start in.

Snapzzz wrote:I don't really have enough knowledge of off piste skiing and avalanche safety

Few of us do, but summer's a good time for reading and thinking about avalanche safety.

It's been mentioned a few times before but Robert Bolognesi's book "Avalanche" is a very good starter; pocket-sized and less than a tenner delivered.
Well I think they should start chasing and prosecuting the people who are ski-ing dangerously, and endangering the lives of others, but leave the dead and mourning alone because they've been punished enough.

I should imagine there are hundreds of people, if not thousands, who fall into this category, and have just been lucky that their particular escapade didn't end in death or serious injury. I have seen people going under the safety barriers to ski/board dangerous off-piste areas, or pistes that have been closed for safety reasons.

And think of that man I saw lost and off-piste on his own with no safety gear whilst the avalanche flag was flying, up the top of one of the highest mountains in Tignes just as all the lifts were about to close and the ski area was shutting down for the night. I hope the ski patrol people found him (I told them where he was) and gave him a good ticking off after they'd brought him back to safety.

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