A 40-year-old man has been charged with manslaughter over his involvement in the skiing accident which caused the death of a five-year-old British girl in Flaine (Haute-Savoie).
The accident happened on Saturday (January 15), when the girl, who has now been named locally as Ophélie, was hit “at high speed” by the man while taking part in a ESF ski school lesson with four other children.
Ophélie was at the back of the group on the blue Serpentine run, and was preparing to make a right turn when the collision occurred.
The man, who is a volunteer firefighter and from Haute-Savoie, immediately called for first aid help, and was assisted by a doctor who was on the mountain. When emergency services arrived, Ophélie appeared to be in cardiac arrest.
She never regained consciousness and died while being transported to hospital by helicopter.
The skier, who has been in custody since the incident, has not been identified. “He has been placed under judicial control and is specifically accused of a deliberate violation of safety obligations,” a source told Mail Online. He is cooperating fully with the authorities.
Bonneville public prosecutor Karline Bouisset confirmed that he is being charged with manslaughter and added that a dozen people had been interviewed “at length” about the accident. The suspect risks three years in prison and a €45,000 fine.
Ophélie lived in Geneva with her British parents and sister.
A postmortem began yesterday morning (January 17), and initial indications suggest that the impact of the collision was very violent, France 3 reports.
Ski community ‘devastated’ by the accident
Jean-Paul Constant, the mayor of Arâches-la-Frasse, which encompasses Flaine ski resort, said that the authorities were “actively looking for a psychologist who speaks English for the family, who have returned to Geneva.
“They are suffering from extreme shock, as are many others involved in this tragedy.”
Psychological support has also been put in place for staff of the ski resort, where two other fatal accidents have already occurred on that same piste.
“All our thoughts are with little Ophélie, her parents and her sister, as well as with our instructor during this difficult time,” the ESF ski school wrote in a statement on social media.
“We are devastated by this unhappy turn of events,” added the school’s director Christophe Baujon. “It is a tragedy, in the same way as road accidents are. There will always be people going too fast.”
The public prosecution service also maintains that the “excessive speed” of the suspect was the main cause of the accident.
For some people, Saturday’s accident brought back memories of another fatal accident which happened in Flaine in March 2016.
On this occasion, a woman died on the Serpentine run after being hit by a snowboarder.