British snowboarder Emily Watts in critical condition after accident in French Alps

 

A British student left critically ill after a snowboarding accident in the French Alps is still fighting for her life, her family said today.

Emily Watts, known as Mimi, fell headfirst into a snowdrift and was stuck for about 45 minutes following the fall in Chamonix on Saturday.

By the time emergency crews arrived, the 26-year-old, from Lavenham, in Suffolk, had suffered a cardiac arrest, prompting fears of brain damage.

Her parents, Nicky and Dominic, along with her 27-year-old brother Rory, have now flown to France to be by her bedside while she remains on a life support machine.

Today, Miss Watts' aunt Shona Pollock said there had been no news overnight.

She added her family was "consumed with grief" as it became clear she was unlikely to recover.

"She's on a life support machine but it won't be for long," Ms Pollock said.

"I have a religious friend who said there is still hope but I don't believe there is. Her brain was starved of oxygen for about 45 minutes.

"It's so sad. Mimi is a fabulous, outgoing character, plucky, and someone who loved the mountains.

"She is adored by her brother. She's just a thoroughly positive, optimistic, lovely girl."

French police were unable to notify the family for a day as Miss Watts was not wearing any identification, Ms Pollock said.

The design student was reportedly evacuated to hospital in nearby Annecy, before being transferred to a specialist unit. It is believed no-one else was involved in the accident.

The experienced snowboarder had been in France for a few weeks and was working at the resort, her aunt said.

Ms Pollock, who runs a catering company in Barnes, south-west London, said: "She had been out there for a couple of weeks but, tragically, Saturday was the first day of the season.

"No-one really knows what happened but she had all the right kit on."

Miss Watts was in the Grands Montets, the largest pisted skiing area in the Chamonix Valley, when the accident happened.

She reportedly suffered the cardiac arrest while rescuers were struggling to reach her at the top of the Pierre a Ric run.

She had previously studied costume design at Sussex University and had attended a local convent in Bury St Edmunds, her aunt said. She was due to begin a masters degree course in design.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the hospitalisation of a British national in France on December 8.

"We are providing consular assistance to the family at this difficult time."

Speaking from France today, her mother, Nicky, said the family were on their way to meet mountain rescue workers in Chamonix.

She added: "We will speak to them and try to get a better picture of exactly what happened.

"We have seen some reports that Emily was off piste and on her own - that is not true and she would never do that.

"She was on piste and at the back of a group of friends.

"They got to the bottom and realised she wasn't with them but, because she is such a competent snowboarder, it didn't occur to them that anything might have happened."

She added that there had been no developments in Miss Watts' condition.

PA

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