02/17/2012

Dutch prince buried in avalanche fighting for his life

Prince Friso
This photo was taken a year ago showing Dutch Prince Friso and Princess Mabel together with their daughters Luana and Zaria in the western Austrian ski resort of Lech, where the prince was buried under an avalanche on Friday. (Frank van Beek/AFP/Getty Images)

Prince Johan Friso of the Netherlands is in a coma and remained in critical condition Monday, three days after he was buried by an avalanche in the Austrian resort of Lech.

The second son of Queen Beatrix was buried under 40 centimetres of snow for about 20 minutes before he was pulled from the snow and resuscitated. The 43-year-old father of two has no external injuries, but suffered "respiratory distress," a neurosurgeon told the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

Oxygen deprivation can result in brain damage, but doctors said early CT scans do not show swelling or pressure from blood vessels.

"The health condition of his royal majesty Prince Friso remains unchanged," at the intensive care unit of the Innsbruck University Hospital, the Royal Dutch House said in a statement. "He is stable, but not out of danger." The statement added that a prognosis would most likely "not be given before the end of this week."

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Queen Beatrix and Friso's wife, Princess Mabel, have been at the hospital most of the time since the accident. They are staying at a nearby hotel along with the Prince's two daughters, Luana, 6, and Zaria, 5. His brothers, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Maxima, and Prince Constantijn with his wife Princess Laurentien, flew into the resort town Friday night.

Several members of the Dutch royal family had been on holiday together in Lech in the western Austrian Alps, which has been a popular spot over the years for celebrities and royals from around Europe.

2012-02-18T095507Z_01_LEC07Stefan Jochum, a spokesman for the resort, said the prince and three other skiers were on slopes away from the marked Lech ski runs when the avalanche occurred (right, site of the avalanche). The prince was the only member of the party to be injured.

Lech Mayor Ludwig Muxel told the Austria Press Agency that Friso was buried for about 20 minutes by a snow mass that measured about 30 x 40 metres when it hit him and a companion.

One tourism official said the companion, wearing a special air bag designed to lift skiers above the snow, was able to free himself quickly and call for help. The prince was wearing a transceiver, helping rescue crews to find him.

According to an Austrian newspaper, the region had several heavy snowfalls in recent days and had posted an avalanche warning of four out of a maximum of five on Friday, advising skiers not to venture onto the slopes.

Prince Friso gave up his right to the Dutch throne when he married Mabel Wisse Smit in 2004. She was a commoner who, it was revealed, had links to mobster Klaas Bruinsma, who was shot and killed in 1991 in Amsterdam.

Once her past was uncovered, the couple decided to not get official permission for their marriage, although their royal titles were not affected.

The prince has an degree in mechanical engineering and lives in London with his family.

He works for URENCO, a uranium enrichment company, as chief financial officer. Previously, he was with the investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Dutch family
Members of the Dutch royal family pose during a photocall in the Austrian ski resort of Lech am Arlberg in February 2011. Left to right, rear, are Prince Constantijn, Princess Laurentien, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, Princess Maxima, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Princess Mabel Wisse Smit, Prince Johan Frisco and Princess Leonore. Front row, left to right, are Princess Eloise, Prince Claus-Casimir, Princess Catharina-Amalia, Princess Alexia, Princess Ariane and Countess Luana and Zaria. (Reuters)

Hotel
A general view of the Gasthaus Post hotel on Friday where the Dutch royal family are staying during their skiing holiday in Lech. The Dutch royal family often spends winter holidays in Lech in the west Austrian province of Vorarlberg -- which like other parts of Austria has been blanketed with heavy snow in recent weeks. The resort is also a favourite of the British Royal Family. (Reuters)

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God be with him and his family. The Dutch Royal family is awesome. We love them. Adele and Hilco de Haan and children. Canada.

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