Tragedy was narrowly avoided on Thursday, March 12, when a light aircraft experienced difficulty on takeoff and began careening down the ski slopes of the Avoriaz resort in the French Alps. The plane clipped a skier, causing the near amputation of her hand, according to the Irish Times.
The aircraft in question was a single-propeller Jodel plane, fully equipped with appropriate ski apparatus, and with a professional and experienced pilot at the controls. The pilot was unable to maintain control of the plane as he attempted to depart from the runway that lies adjacent to the resort, however, and was left trying to prevent disaster as it slid down the slope that is popular with skiers.
Describing the incident, the local public prosecutor, Patrick Steinmetz, explained to Agence France-Presse how the 55-year-old Polish skier came to be struck by the plane’s propeller.
“The plane suddenly appeared behind her and there was virtually no sound. She didn’t hear it.”
Eyewitnesses recounted the way in which the plane narrowly missed a group of children on the busy slope and continued on underneath a chairlift, before striking the female skier and almost taking her hand. Having suffered what was characterized by Travel Weekly as a “near amputation,” she was assisted by an on-site doctor and airlifted to hospital for specialist treatment.
— Darren Porter (@SkyDaz) March 12, 2015
An unnamed source from the emergency services who attended the scene detailed the severity of the incident.
“We came close to disaster. The plane passed under the cable of a ski lift, it avoided some fir tress then a group of children before arriving on a blue piste, popular with skiers including the victim.”
As an investigation into the accident gets underway, the aircraft was due to be removed from the ski slope, and the resort was open as usual, as indicated by TravelMole.
The site of the incident — Avoriaz, located in Haute Savoire — was recently found by Le Figaro newspaper to be the most expensive ski resort in the country. The area, along with the French Alps region in general, has been closely monitored for avalanche risk in recent months, as over 20 skiers have lost their lives due to the phenomena in this season alone. Avorinet details the recent rescue of a skier from Chatel, near Avoriaz, after a “small slide” occurred and carried them a short distance, causing facial injuries.
It is avalanche risk that is most heavily focused upon in safety information for many ski resorts, but the light aircraft incident on Thursday highlights the additional, unexpected dangers faced by the skier using such locations.
[Image: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images]