Ski coach may have caused accident

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

INNSBRUCK, Austria -- A German ski coach was under investigation Tuesday for possibly causing the accident that left French World Cup champion Rene Cavagnoud on a respirator with serious brain damage.

Coach Markus Anwander also was on a respirator but was not injured quite as badly as the 31-year-old super-G World Cup champion in the crash on an Austrian glacier on Monday during practice.

Cavagnoud remained in critical condition a day after the accident and doctors said her injuries were worse than they originally thought.

Dr. Wolfgang Koller, head of the trauma intensive care unit at Innsbruck University Clinic, said Cavagnoud has been under heavy sedation since Monday.

"We have received the confirmation that she likely suffered serious brain damage," he said. Asked if the damage was irreparable, the doctor said, "We cannot yet judge the full impact. This will be possible sometime tomorrow."

Dr. Nobert Mutz, another physician in the trauma intensive-care ward, later told Austrian state television Cavagnoud's injuries were "most serious" and "one has to count with the worst, but there is always hope."

With the equipment in use, the skier's condition "can be kept stable," Koller said. Earlier in the day, he said Cavagnoud's condition was "life-threatening," as she has been since the accident.

German and French ski officials said Tuesday the accident was caused by communication problems between their teams, which were both practicing on the Pitzhal glacier.

The Austrian prosecutor has begun investigating. Spokesman Rudolf Koll said Tuesday the coach may be responsible for the accident.

"He arrived on the track and was the cause of what happened," Koll said.

Earlier, German ski federation officials said there was no joint radio frequency that would have enabled the teams to be in direct contact.

"Unfortunate circumstances added up here," said Wolfgang Maier, the chief coach of the German women's team.

Ski officials said Cavagnoud crashed headfirst into Anwander as he crossed her path on the glacier. Both were taken by helicopter to the hospital in Innsbruck.

Several national ski teams are training in Austria at the start of the World Cup season.

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