Schumacher skiing accident ‘caught on film’
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The skiing accident that has left former F1 driver Michael Schumacher fighting for his life in hospital was caught on camera, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.
The video could prove vital to French authorities investigating the accident and crucially it shows the 45-year-old skiing at a "leisurely" pace, according to the witness who filmed it.
Establishing Schumacher’s speed at the time of the accident, which saw the motor racing legend fall and hit his head on a rock while skiing off-piste in the French Alps resort of Meribel, is a key priority for investigators, as it could determine responsibility.
So far there have been conflicting reports as to whether the German was travelling at a high speed or more serene pace at the time of the accident on December 29.
Der Spiegel said the video was captured on a smartphone by a 35-year-old steward who was filming his girlfriend at the time and caught Schumacher’s fall by chance.
In the background of the video a skier, apparently Schumacher, can be seen descending on an unmarked run between two groomed pistes before falling.
According to the witness, who contacted the German magazine on Friday, Schumacher was descending the slope at “a maximum speed of 20 kilometres an hour".
Der Spiegel said the witness planned to provide the video to French investigators.
Helmet camera could be key
The investigation team is also hoping that a camera mounted on the helmet Schumacher was wearing at the time could also shed light on the circumstances of his accident.
Authorities were handed the camera on Friday, but it is still unknown whether it captured the moment when the retired seven-time world champion slammed his head on a rock, or whether images have been damaged by the impact, which was so hard it split the helmet he was wearing.
The GoPro miniature camera, robust and popular among extreme sports enthusiasts, has a 170-degree wide angle lens that takes in much of the view and can show parts of the user's body, including the face, depending on how it is mounted.
The latest models can take up to 30 images a second for six hours and any usable images may prove vital to the investigation.
Many questions over the circumstances of the accident remain unanswered. The ski resort initially claimed that Schumacher had been skiing at high speed, but this was challenged by his spokeswoman Sabine Kehm who has said Schumacher had stopped to help a friend who had fallen, so could not have been travelling fast.
Prosecutors are also looking at whether the limits of the ski runs next to the accident site were correctly marked and whether the rock Schumacher hit was lying close enough to the piste to require some kind of protection or signage.
In addition, they are examining whether the safety releases on Schumacher's skis operated properly.
Police have also obtained eyewitness testimony from Schumacher's 14-year-old son Mick, who was skiing with his father at the time.
‘Critical but stable’
Although Schumacher was conscious when airlifted from the unmarked run after the accident, he was agitated and soon fell into a coma, prompting his transfer to a hospital in the city of Grenoble in southeastern France.
Brain scans revealed Schumacher had suffered internal bleeding and injuries including contusions and lesions.
He has undergone two operations to remove blood and pressure from his brain and has since been kept in a medically induced coma.
Doctors have refused to be drawn on a prognosis, but have described Schumacher’s injuries as “life threatening”.
On Saturday, Kehm said the former Ferrari driver remained in a "critical but stable" condition.
Any additional information on Schumacher's condition "not coming from the doctors treating him or from his management must be treated as invalid and pure speculation", she added.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)