Man charged with manslaughter over death of British girl, 5, in French Alps skiing accident

The incident happened on Saturday

Peter Allen
in Paris
Tuesday 18 January 2022 09:58
<p>Skiers ride down a slope in the French Alps</p>

Skiers ride down a slope in the French Alps

A Frenchman has been charged with the manslaughter of a five-year-old British girl on an Alpine ski slope.

The 40-year-old suspect, who has not been identified, has been in custody since Saturday in Bonneville, eastern France.

It was then that witnesses watched him skiing ‘at high speed’ over ‘a slight bump’ and then colliding with the little child, who has been named locally only as Ophélie.

She was taking a lesson on a beginners’ slope in the resort of Flaine, in France’s eastern Haute-Savoie department.

“The skier involved in the death has been indicted for manslaughter,” said an investigating source on Monday evening.

“He has been placed under judicial control and is specifically accused of a deliberate violation of safety obligations,” the source added.

The crime is punishable with up to five years in prison, and a fine equivalent to £62,000.

This information was confirmed by Karline Bouisset, the public prosecutor in Bonneville, who also said that the man, a volunteer fire fighter, had been “skiing at high speed”.

She added that a dozen people, including direct witnesses to the tragedy, have been interviewed “at length” since Saturday.

The skier tried to administer first-aid to the child, who had been skiing with four other girls and boys, but she never recovered consciousness and died on her way to hospital in a helicopter at about 1pm.

Ophélie lived with her British parents in Geneva, and they also own a holiday home in Les Carroz, another Alpine ski resort.

The children were on the Serpentine Blue run, and in a group lesson run by France’s ESF national ski school.

Ms Bouisset said: ‘The child was in a single file behind the group and was about to make a right turn when she was very violently hit by the skier arriving at high speed who tried in vain to avoid her.’

Jean-Paul Constant, the Mayor of nearby Arâches, said: “We are 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.”

The criminal suspect comes from Saint-Jeoire, and he is offering his full cooperation to the authorities.

A post-mortem was due to take place on Monday to determine the cause of death, but the results had not been released by the evening.

Some resorts in France and Switzerland have introduced speed cameras and hand-held radar devices in a move aimed at reducing accidents on pistes. The limit on many has been set at 30kph, a little under 19 mph, but far lower speeds are expected on easier slopes.

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