German politician may be sued over fatal skiing collision

Other News Materials 10 January 2009 20:30 (UTC +04:00)

A German state premier who collided with a woman skier in Austria is to be sued for damages by her family, their lawyer told German media on Saturday, dpa reported.

The woman identified in the German media as Beata C, 41, died on her way to hospital after the collision with Dieter Althaus, 50, on January 1 while both were skiing in the Riesneralm resort in Styria state.

Althaus was moved Friday back to his state capital of Erfurt in Thuringia and is recovering from concussion and other injuries.

Alexander Rehrl, the Salzburg, Austria, lawyer representing the C family, told the weekly Focus: "The premier should have skied in a way so as not to endanger anyone else. Evidently that was not the case."

He said Althaus was at least partly to blame.

Rehrl did not say how much compensation would be sought, but said he expected there would be a negotiated settlement with Althaus, who rules one of Germany's 16 states and is a leading figure in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

The accident has national political implications because Althaus may not be able lead the CDU effectively into state polls this year.

Althaus may also face criminal charges in an Austrian court.

Another weekly magazine, Der Spiegel, quoted Austrian public prosecutor Walter Ploebst as saying that prosecution of survivors of ski accidents was mandatory if there was any suggestion they bore an element of blame.

Police suspect Althhaus swerved while descending a fast slope onto a slower, intersecting slope being used by C, who was not wearing any helmet. They say Althaus has no recollection of what happened.

The collision has led to a debate about whether helmets should be mandatory for people skiing in the Alps.