Prosecutors investigating the accident which left Michael Schumacher fighting for his life have shed a little more light on the incident, dispelling a couple of 'media myths'
Speaking to reporters in Albertville, Chief Prosecutor Patrick Quincy was able to shed a little more light on the situation, confirming that the seven-time champion was, as has been widely reported, off-piste, but also dismissing claims that the accident happened after going to the aid of a family friend.
Whilst dismissing the German's speed as a major factor, it was revealed that Schumacher's skis showed evidence of hitting a rock, whilst talk of mobile phone video evidence of the incident was dismissed, the only footage of the incident being that from the German's helmet camera, which, according to Quincy, is remarkably clear.
"Mr Schumacher was going down the piste up until an intersection between two other pistes, one red and a blue one," said Quincy. "He followed the red piste to the left side and then he goes across and finds himself off-piste.
"He then carried out what skiers call (inaudible) - he's obviously a very good skier - and he is between three and six metres off the piste. At one point, in fact, his skis touch a rock, he loses balance and he falls forward and his head hits a rock which is three metres-fifty below. The rock, in fact, that he hits, is eight metres alongside the piste. Mr Schumacher is on the ground, he's inanimate, and he's nine metres from the edge of the piste.
"That is the information we have with regards the enquiry. So we proceeded to examine the film that was made, that particular film is extremely legible and gives us a great deal of information or at least confirms the information we already had at hand.
“We will take advantage of this film in order to be able to recreate the situation. We will know specifically what will be, or what was, the path that Mr Schumacher followed. This film will be examined and a technician will look at it, and one of our gendarmes - who is a mountaineering expert, and who teaches skiing and is a mountain guide - will also look at it, and in that way we will be able to establish with as much precision as possible precisely what took place."
“That is the situation today,” he concluded, before opening the floor to questions from the assembled journalists.
Asked about the speed Schumacher was skiing at, and whether the off-piste area was sufficiently marked as being dangerous, Quincy replied: "With regards the speed, I saw the film, and the people involved in the enquiry know it well and are examining it in detail at the moment. It is difficult for me to be able to evaluate the speed," he admitted. "The people involved in the enquiry, and in particular the commander, is probably the best person to tell us how to calculate the speed at which Mr Schumacher was going."
"Mr Schumacher is a very good skier," said the commander. "He was going on the left-hand side of the area that limits the main piste and he was on terrain that was most sloped and because of that slope he gained speed, he was trying to reduce the speed but there were few curves so the pace remained.
“Therefore we cannot really estimate the speed at kilometres-per-hour, we can't work out a figure, but he was a good skier on terrain that was slightly curved. One couldn't, in fact, as it was off-piste, it was difficult to slow down... he needed to remain in the line of the slope."
Referring to the off-piste markings, Quincy said: "As you are well aware, there are some French norms, or standards, regarding signalling, warning, information and so on. And what we were able to note was that those standard had been respected.
"We did note that the signage was in accordance with the regulations," added the commander. "The left-hand side was shown, the markings ensured that even when the weather was bad you could see them and Mr Schumacher was, in fact, in an area that was no longer signposted, he was off-piste, it was virgin territory and, of course, that gives rise to certain dangers in the mountains."
Asked about the condition of Schumacher's skis, which were (surprisingly) rented, his helmet and safety releases, Quincy said that the equipment is currently being examined by an organisation that specialises in the analysis of skiing and mountaineering equipment. "I don't think you could have a better qualified body to analyse the equipment," he said. "We will be made aware of the conclusions of this analysis in a few days," he added. "I can't say precisely when."
"As far as the skis are concerned, we are talking about skis that were in a perfect state at the beginning," said the commander, "almost new. I would say the skis are not the reason for the accident, the fixings were in a good state and, as the prosecutor stated, we have got evidence that corroborates that there was a scratch from a rocky surface, in other words the skis had been damaged because they came in contact with a rocky surface."
Asked outright if Schumacher had "made a mistake", Quincy replied: "At the current stage of the enquiry I cannot answer this question."