Skiing: Criticism over safety: Anger over the death of Maier

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The Independent Online
ULRIKE MAIER'S fiance criticised Alpine skiing authorities yesterday over safety precautions at the course where the Austrian former world champion suffered a fatal crash in Saturday's World Cup downhill race at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany.

Maier, the mother of a four-year-old daughter, lost control of her right ski and fell on her back off the side of the course. She was taken to an accident hospital near Munich but died three hours later.

'I am very, very angry about FIS (the International Ski Federation),' Hubert Schweighofer said. 'For four years the experts have been working on safety, and this has shown that nothing has improved.' He put a bunch of flowers on the spot where the 26-year-old Maier crashed.

Schweighofer, a policeman, said there was not enough padding on the timing post which registered the intermediate times of the racers as they went down the 2.8km Kandahar piste, one of the most dangerous on the circuit.

'It was just a sack of straw. I can't understand how with today's possibilities it can be like this,' he said. 'I want to stop this with the help of my lawyer and the journalists. Next year this could be all forgotten and there will be races again. I want to fight the FIS. Otherwise there could be another death.' Race organisers said it was normal practice to pad the timing post with a sack of straw.

A Swiss local radio station said that Maier herself had criticised the preparation of the piste shortly before her crash. 'The run is brutally icy. Something must be done, because otherwise it is too dangerous,' she said. A spokesman for the radio station said that her criticism had been taken seriously, and that course officials had worked on the run again before the race began.

The area of the piste where Maier crashed was cordoned off yesterday to allow the German state prosecutor to inspect the scene. The piste was closed and yesterday's planned World Cup downhill was cancelled.

Garmisch officials said they plan to hold a mass and memorial service on Wednesday, when the men's racers have arrived for next weekend's World Cup events.