Suspended Sentence for Killing Wife in Avalanche

Deadly Avalanche in Obertaurn from march 2010

Killed wife in an Avalanche

Back in March of 2010, a 63 year old Austrian man and his 58 year old wife was on a ski tour, which ended in a tragic avalanche accident.

The man triggered a 80 meter wide and 250 meter long avalanche, which went down and buried his wife. Now over 2 years later on the 13. of June 2012, the Regional Court of Linz, has sentenced the man to 3 month suspended jail for involuntary manslaughter of his wife back in that tragic accident.

The couple went for a skitour in the area of Obertauern (Lungau) in Austria, to the mountain of Sichelwand, where they at 9am in the morning decided to ski a steep north-east facing slope, the wife went first and the man somewhat later.

The husband immediately notified the police and started searching for his wife, but unfortunately the wife had not turned on her avalanche transceiver, it was tucked away in her backpack. So when the rescue team and dogs finally found her at around 11am, the rescue doctor could just declare her dead, most probably from trauma, but she also had her mouth full of snow – not a good sign.

map of obertaurn

The blue circle indicates where the mountain Sichelwand is.

Avalanche Danger

The previous days, it had snowed between 20-50 cm in the area and the avalanche level given out by the Salzburger avalanche warning service was a 3 out of 5 on the European avalanche scale, in that part of the region.

The avalanche bulletin where specific warning about slopes ranging from north to east below ridge lines and below terrain terasses, due to the strong wind that accompanied the snowfall. Also they warned that the weak snow layers would be easy to trigger in steep terrain, thus easy to trigger an avalance.

Read the avalanche bulletin from the Salzburger Avalanche warning service.

This was the exact kind of terrain, that the husband and wife were skiing.

Avalanche Transceiver Control

Then you might ask yourself, why does a man that had already done 69 ski tours that season and his wife 22, decide to ski down such an obviously avalanche slope and to top it off, they had not done a standard avalanche transceiver control, before starting their tour in the early morning hours….

I for sure don’t know, but I’m sure that you could find several other examples out there, that just hasn’t turned this bad – yet.

Uproar in Austrian Mountaineering Circles

The sentence has brought a bit of a debate in the Austrian mountaineering circles, whether it is now a crime or not when you are involved in a deadly avalanche accident, even if you’re an amateur (somebody not getting paid for guiding somebody around in the mountains).

This generally means that, next time you and your body are skiing around in off-piste terrain, you should certainly remember that you are legally responsible for each other, in the worst case it could be a criminal case, should something bad happened.

Read more about the sentence in English

What are you’re take on it, please leave a comment and tell us your opion.

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