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Dutch Prince Friso seriously brain-damaged after skiing accident

February 24, 2012 | 11:04 am


This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

REPORTING FROM LONDON -- Dutch Prince Johan Friso suffered irreversible brain damage after being buried in an avalanche while skiing in the Austrian Alps a week ago and may never regain consciousness, doctors said Friday.

The 43-year-old prince, second son of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, was skiing with friends in the Voralberg region of Austria when the avalanche struck. He lay trapped under snow for around 15 minutes before being rescued and airlifted to a nearby hospital last week.

"Because he was under the snow for such a long time, his brain did not get enough oxygen," Dr. Wolfgang Koller, head of the trauma unit at Innsbruck University Hospital, told a news conference Friday.

"We can’t tell for certain if Prince Friso will wake up from his unconscious state," Koller said.

After the accident, Prince Friso suffered a 50-minute cardiac arrest while doctors tried to resuscitate him, hoping that a state of hypothermia would protect him from brain damage.  

"Fifty minutes of resuscitation is a very long time, you could even say too long, but we hoped the hypothermia the patient had would protect him from brain damage," Koller said. "Unfortunately, this didn’t happen."

The team wasn't able to do an MRI scan to ascertain the extent of the damage until Thursday, Kollner said.

"Neurological treatment will be needed for months, if not for years," Kollner predicted.

The prince’s family, including his mother, brother Crown Prince Willem Alexander and wife Princess Mabel, has visited the hospital and Kollner told journalists the family would seek a clinic to continue private treatment.

Since his marriage in 2004, Prince Friso has worked on boards of charities and as an investment banker. Today, he is chief financial officer of Eurenco, a uranium-enrichment consortium. 

He and his wife and their two daughters, Luana, 6, and Zaria, 5, live in London as low-profile members of the Dutch royal family.

He is no longer in line for the throne because they married without the parliamentary approval necessary for royal family members to keep their right to succession. 

[For the record, 12:46 p.m. Feb. 24: An earlier version of this post said Prince Friso had suffered a 5-minute cardiac arrest. It was a 50-minute cardiac arrest.]


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Photo: On their wedding day in 2004, Dutch Prince Johan Friso and his wife, Princess Mabel, stand on the balcony of Noordeinde Palace in The Hague, the Netherlands. Credit: Jasper Juinen/EPA