Tragic accident was a ‘complete fluke’

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Latest community news from the Suffolk Free Press,, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

A snowboarder and talented designer from Lavenham died after becoming trapped in deep snow on a mountain in France, an inquest heard.

Emily Watts, known to friends and family as Mimi, was airlifted to hospital in Annecy after the accident at nearby Chamonix on December 8, 2012.

She was revived by a doctor and mountain rescue team but failed to regain consciousness and died in hospital at Metz-Tessy five days later.

An inquest in Bury St Edmunds on Monday heard that Emily, 26, had been returning alone down a ski slope after spending the day with friends when she plunged into deep fresh snow from which it was impossible to get herself out.

Her snowboard was spotted by English skier Nicholas Bridge sticking out of the snow and he then realised that she was trapped beneath it, said Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean.

Efforts by Mr Bridge and other skiers to get Emily out failed, and she was only extricated when a mountain rescue team arrived, closely followed by a doctor flown to the scene by a police helicopter.

Dr Dean said reports compiled by the French authorities showed that Emily, from Bury Road, had suffered a cardiac arrest.

The accident, which happened on the first day of the ski season, was described as a “complete fluke,” by a French police officer, who said he had never seen a similar one in his 25 years service in the resort.

Investigators had been unable to conclusively explain what caused the accident but it was clear that Emily, who was an experienced snowboarder, had not been off-piste, said the coroner.

Experts at the ski resort said that because the snow that Emily fell into was fresh, powdery and deep, it would have been impossible for her to get out.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Dr Dean said: “This appears to have been a tragic accident. There was no evidence of her behaving in a careless or reckless manner.

“This was an accident which happened to someone who was an experienced snowboarder.”

Speaking after the inquest, Emily’s family paid tribute to her talents as a designer and said she had been in Chamonix to begin setting up a business producing clothes for snowboarders.

A charity, Good Story, which reflects the name of Emily’s clothing brand, had, in the 18 months since her death, helped 40 young people move forward with their creative projects.

Emily’s mother Nicky McAlister said: “She was very much a free spirit who followed her own path.”