Dutch Prince buried in avalanche may never awaken, say doctors

Prince friso
The Netherlands' Prince Friso is seen here with his wife Princess Mabel and their daughters Luana and Zaria in the Austrian skiing resort of Lech. Doctors treating the Prince say he suffered massive brain damage after being buried by an avalanche last week and he may never regain consciousness. (AP)

Dutch Prince Johan Friso may never regain consciousness after being buried in an avalanche last week in the Austrian Alps, say doctors.

The second son of Queen Beatrix was buried under 40 centimetres of snow for about 20 minutes before rescuers dug him out and it took nearly 50 minutes to revive the prince, said Dr. Wolf Koller.

MRI scans have shown his brain suffered "massive damage'' in the avalanche.

Koller"We cannot say today with certainty whether Prince Friso will one day regain consciousness," Dr. Koller (right), who is head of the trauma unit at Innsbruck's University Hospital, said in a Friday press conference.

"In any case, a neurological rehabilitation will be required that will take months, if not years."

Prince Friso, 43, had been on a skiing holiday in the Austrian resort of Lech with his wife, Princess Mabel, and their two daughters. The prince and three other skiers were on slopes away from the marked Lech ski runs when the avalanche occurred about midday last Friday.

Friso was buried by a snow mass that measured about 30 x 40 metres when it hit him and a companion, Florian Moosbrugger.

Moosbrugger, 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.

Dr. Koller said the prince's brain had been deprived of oxygen, resulting in a heart attack that lasted 50 minutes.

Couple"Fifty minutes of reanimation is very, very long, one might even say too long," said the doctor. "Our hope was that the patient's mild hypothermia would provide some protection for the brain. This hope was not realized."

The prince will be moved to a private clinic at some point for further treatment, but doctors warned he may never waken from his coma.

The Prince's family appealed for the media to respect their privacy, saying in a statement they "need space to learn how to deal with Prince Friso's health situation and to adjust their lives to it."

The family, including the Queen, his wife Mabel (right) and his brothers Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Prince Constantijn, have been keeping vigil at the hospital all week.

The Dutch royal family regularly spends skiing holidays in Lech, in the western Vorarlberg province of Austria. It has been a popular spot over the years for celebrities and royals from around Europe.

Moosbrugger, owner of the hotel where the royal family stays, has been questioned by police seeking to establish which of the skiers went down the slope first, and how the avalanche began.

Moosbrugger could reportedly face charges of "unintentional grievous bodily harm in particularly dangerous circumstances", but he said he is innocent.

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte has phoned the Queen and Princess Mabel, telling them “the Netherlands is sympathizing intensely with the family in these times of concern and sorrow.”

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 a degree in mechanical engineering and lives in London with his wife and two daughters: Luana, 6, and Zaria, 5.

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

Dutch Prince Constantijn, left, Queen Beatrix, Princess Mabel and Prince Willem Alexander arrive at the main hospital in Innsbruck on Friday. (AP)


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The article is flatly incorrect when it states that, "their royal titles were not affected" by their decision to marry without Parliamentary approval.

Friso Van Oranje-Nassau van Amsberg lost his title as "Prince of the Netherlands" and was expelled from the Dutch Royal House. He was, however, later granted the lower title of "Prince of Orange-Nassau" and remains a member of the Dutch Royal Family. He is still called "Prince Friso", but this is a now a lower (and non-hereditary) title from the one he was born with.

His wife, Mabel Van Oranje-Nassau van Amsberg, was not ennobled upon marrying him, again because of the failure to receive Parliamentary permission. Although she is styled as a "Princess of Orange-Nassau", this is just a courtesy title reflecting her marriage to a Prince of Orange-Nassau. It is not a substantive title or a title in its own right, which she would have received had the marriage been approved by Parliament.

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