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French coach on trial over Cavgnoud's death

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Today french coach Xavier Fournier and starter David Fine will be on trial in Annecy (France) over the death of Régine Cavagnoud (former super G world champ) of october 2001 in Pitzal (austria). She collided at 80kph with a german coach crossing the slope during a joint french/german training session, and died 2 days later of her severe brain injuries.
Prosecutor is expected to blame french starter, Fine, who failed to warn his german colleague of Cavagnoud's start.
Fine's lawyer intend to put the blame on the german staff (already cleared by austrian justice), and especialy the german starter, unqualified for his duty, according to her.
full story in french http://fr.sports.yahoo.com/050510/1/78od.html
post #2 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by philippeR
Today french coach Xavier Fournier and starter David Fine will be on trial in Annecy (France) over the death of Régine Cavagnoud (former super G world champ) of october 2001 in Pitzal (austria). She collided at 80kph with a german coach crossing the slope during a joint french/german training session, and died 2 days later of her severe brain injuries.
Prosecutor is expected to blame french starter, Fine, who failed to warn his german colleague of Cavagnoud's start.
Fine's lawyer intend to put the blame on the german staff (already cleared by austrian justice), and especialy the german starter, unqualified for his duty, according to her.
full story in french http://fr.sports.yahoo.com/050510/1/78od.html
My mom taught me to look both ways before crossing the street. If I were crossing a race course I would hold myself responsible for avoiding collisions with anyone using the course.
post #3 of 22
please explain to me how this can be involuntary manslaughter, "homicide et blessures involontaires" -- a criminal offense. I could see perhaps a cival trial.

I find this to be a compounding of a horrible incident- let us see if we can ruin some more lives by proving that someone screwed up [news flash- all involved know there were stupid decsions made, by definition]. What possible good could be done by throwing these people in jail? Will society possibly be better off by being protected from these negligent souls??? of course not-

something bad happens = someone must pay

how very sad.
post #4 of 22
And I thought we held the title here in the US for frivilous lawsuits!
post #5 of 22
Can you say "malicious prosecution" boys and girls?
post #6 of 22
Ghost:

Based on what I have read, it is silly to blame Markus Anwander (the coach also badly hurt in this collision) in this incident. He was doing his job of maintaining the course, his presence on the course being controlled by those at the start. Of course you try tp look uphill, but maybe he was below a knoll or something else which may have obscured his vision. The French and the German's were on different radio frequencies and this is apparently why Anwander may not have heard the report that Cavignot was on course. These things hapopen, I remember Harald Schoenhar getting in the way of a russian downhiller a few years ago that resulted in a carreer ending injury for her. As for this lawsuit, I think it is very sad. Perfection is hard to achieve.
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
Actualy nobody is blaming the injured german coach, who thought the session was over.
It looks like the french staff did not their job (ie securing the course) properly. (They are, and not the german staffers, prosecuted. it's the french lawyer who try to put the blame on the german starter.)
I don't think the lawsuit is frivolous, and Cavagnoud's folks obviously don't either.
An accident like that should not happen. You're not blasting down at high speed such a course without confidence that it is clear of obstacles. Ditto on a motor race track. What would you say if a F1 (or nascar) racer collided with an oncoming car ? You'd probably say that race officials failed. Racers put their lives in the hand of race officials ! This sport is alredy dangerous enough not be so amateurish on basics safety issues.
Why involuntary manslaughter ? Because somebody died and somebody get hurts because,allegedly , of the negligence of someone whose duty and responsability was to prevent such an event. The court will tell if that's the case or not, but in France (and I suspect in the US too...) to cause someone's death even involuntarily can be a criminal offense (is that 'criminal negligence' in the US ?). Anyway, I don't think anyone will be actualy put in jail as a result of such a law suit. the idea of Cavagnoud's folks (the plaintiffs) is probably to see a symbolic sanction. (which would help, btw, a following civil trial).

edited
Clarification : I agree that the trial wont ressuscitate Cavagnoud. I also agree that all the people involved are certainly mortified about what happened and that they didn't intend it. But somebody bears responsability for this snafu, and must accept it. So far they all claimed to be innocent. A trial may sort things out. If cavagnoud's parents feel conforted by this, it's worthwhile IMO.
post #8 of 22
In your F1 analogy, I would say that the oncoming car(car in error) is responsible. Just as anyone crossing a racecross at anytime (particularly near the beginning or end of a training or race session) should be acutely aware of activity on the course.

These things happen, and yes a racer should and needs to have the confidence that the course is clear, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the spectators & coaches in the race arena to stay out the path of racers.

My son had what turned out to be the 1st incident in a chain of events that in essence ended his competetive career in a FIS downhill training run. In this case there is a controlled crossover. the crosover controllers, let a young bouy on a snowboard cross the cross by himself. a little late, with both feet locked into his board. Although this is the fastest part of the course for the racer, it is a relatively flat crossing. The kid got stuck in the track and just as my son was coming into this corridor at 60 MPH on 212 DH's a spectator ran in front of him & tackled the boarder. He didn't know whwho was going where and try to throw his skis sideways and hit a bump whic put him on his tails and then flew off the upcoming fallaway on his back & his tails bbadly banging up his leg. He coudln't train the next day because of his banged up shin. But decided to race 2 days later. He blew his knee out (ACL & meniscus tear) on the first turn of the first major pitch. He was at the toop of his game at that point always fininshing in the top 3-5 here and had jsut come off a 11 & 14th at Junior Olympics the end of the previous year in GS & SG. He never did recover mentally from the injury.

I have video of this entire incident taken by a friend of mine, but don't know how to upload it so you could see it. It is obviously a very large file.

In this case the course workers controlling the crossover were clearly negligent as young snowboarders are not to cross the course alone.

But in the French case any coach in the race arena should be much more aware.
post #9 of 22
Atomicman, I feel for your son. It's insanity to have any crossovers during any race, not just for the integrity of the course but, for the snow condition in that area as well.

I have seen too many things that frighten me at races and it's an uphill fight for safety some times.

How many gate judges (who repair gates too), per race have only watched a 20 minute video and are turned loose on a course with "0" experience?
post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuki
Atomicman, I feel for your son. It's insanity to have any crossovers during any race, not just for the integrity of the course but, for the snow condition in that area as well.

I have seen too many things that frighten me at races and it's an uphill fight for safety some times.

How many gate judges (who repair gates too), per race have only watched a 20 minute video and are turned loose on a course with "0" experience?
Exactly!
post #11 of 22
Yuki:

Insanity or not, it is impossible to get a resort to gagree to totally close off access on their mountain by not allowing crossovers. Very few areas are left that hosts speed events at all, and very, very few of them does not have crossovers. In an ideal world you would have full professional trained staff in every position, but our sport is very expensive as it is and depends on service by volunteers some that are totally untrained. I also feel for Atomicman's son as this is a tragedy that clearly should not have happened. Several years ago I got banged up relly good while coaching at a race. I was standing on the side of the slalom course on a very icy hill and knew nothing until someone plowed into a group of us sending us every which way. Picked ourselves up and collected our gear and then looked for the culprit. Turned out it was the TD who fell and slid into us. He was actually very banged up and had to be taken to the first aid room.

PhilippeR: I was refering to Ghost's comment about blaming the German coach. I agree that as far as I know, nobody is officially placing any blame on him
post #12 of 22
I'm all too aware of the "real estate" issues during a race and the lack of folks who take the time to work a race too and I'll even confess to a few "burn out" days where I was a lodge lizzard when I should have been out there working.

I posted here a few years ago about getting smoked at my kid when I looked at his brand new SL's that had a big chunk out of them. He could only sputter that he hit a snowmobile ..... I fried him on safety .... this was after his first run ..... one of the older kids put it in perspective, the snowmobile was parked at the finish .... in the fenced in area of the run out!

Two years ago I had them remove the snowmobile from the same place!

This season I had the TD get the damned thing out of there again!

Three years in a row and the dolts couldn't figure that out?

Last year, believe it or not, I had to argue for a mid-radio to clear (for the starter), the area below a head wall. The guy that I had to argue with had his own son killed in a race on that trail a few years ago. When I was the starter we had it out because he was pushing me to "speed up" the intervals between racers ......

Sorry .... rant over .... but it's like beating your head against the wall; it feels SO GOOD ... when you stop!

And ..... I fully acknowledge that I'll probably die by "screwing the pooch" (doing something really stupid) .... myself.
post #13 of 22
Glad to hear their are folks like you involved in racing whocan set aside their "Machismo" & use some damn common sense!

By the way, my son now 19 who was 15 at the time he blew his knee out, won the DH training last year when he was 18, on the exact same course and hill he had injured himself.
post #14 of 22
Thanks, but I did notice that I'm not getting as many "Christmas cards" ... it's so damned tempting to keep your mouth shut since there are some petty folks who can burn the kid for the "sins of the father".

Sounds like a nice recovery for your son!
post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuki
Thanks, but I did notice that I'm not getting as many "Christmas cards" ... it's so damned tempting to keep your mouth shut since there are some petty folks who can burn the kid for the "sins of the father".

Sounds like a nice recovery for your son!
It is more difficult in ski Racing to bvburn a kid though, pretty much just the clock no style points, like subjective baseball! Also

Thanks,
But it took 3 years & then he retired! Might come back next year though.
post #16 of 22
On the flip side, if I hit someone, even if they were on a closed course, I would hold myself responsible. I guess I'm just a responsible kind of guy.
post #17 of 22
What are the rules for language and course communications at that level? This sounds much like it has the overtones of some classic aviation "airport proximity" accidents.

Ghost, with reasonable respect, how many speed events have you ever been in?
post #18 of 22
I don’t doubt that the officials somewhere messed up big time by not ensuring proper communication between the starter and the coach. It reminds me of the multi million dollar N.A.S.A. Mars snafu where someone didn’t realize that there were 2.54 cm in an inch.

As you have probably surmised, I have not participated in races, but I do understand that the environment is different and that the racers rely on the track officials to give them a clear and safe course. Ski racers should not have to contend with random moving obstacles unexpectedly thrown into the mix, even though that might be more exciting.

I have been on motorcycle race tracks (race school, but not an actual race). I at first had great difficulty "trusting" the track marshal who was waving me onto the track. Instead of gunning it when I got the signal, I kept doing a shoulder check to see if it was clear. As soon as I did this he gave me the sign to wait.

I have also been in a ski "event" where they zap your speed with a radar. I remember some a-hole stepped into the course during my run and I stood up out of my crouch in order to loose some speed in case evasive manoeuvers would be required. It pissed me off a little, but not too much as in my estimation the "course" (at Jay Peak) was not all that fast anyway.

We are all different. For me, taking responsibility is how I find the strength to persevere through adversity. Finding excuses and blaming others for misfortunes would just negatively affect my mind set and my abilities to cope with life.
post #19 of 22
I appreciate your last statement in life outside a ski race course. But that kind of thinking has no place for a racer in a course.

You also can't be serious about a race school on a track on a motorcycle compared to running a sanctioned downhill race. 1st off bikes have breaks & steering that farr exceed the abilities of a human on a slick surface going 60+ MPH. Racers aren't looking "over their shoulder" or should they be to see if the "coast is clear". They must put all distractions out of their mind and go 110%+ in downhill.

Thirdly, it is called a tuck or bully, not a crouch, this really makes it sound like you have absolutely no experience in or around a race course or the etiquette involved.

You seriously can't blame a racer for hitting someone who has no business being in the course. It is clearly the person who is the obstacle who is to blame.

The official's should be responsible for crossovers and such but cannot control every single person particularly coaches in the race arena It is up to each individual to be acutely aware of activity on the race course. You take this responsibility (like you said be responsible for yourself) when you step under the ropes in the race arena. I have spent man, many days at races for the past 9 years. Many times the coaches are shootin' the bull, talking on cell phones and radios to their other coaches on course or just telling jokes and not paying 100% attention. If a racer, official or slipper happens to fall and slide into them, this is the risk the coaches accept by being inside the arena. They often also stand where it is likely someon may come their way. There definetly are safer places than others to watch in side the ropes.
post #20 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Atomicman
I appreciate your last statement in life outside a ski race course. But that kind of thinking has no place for a racer in a course.

You also can't be serious about a race school on a track on a motorcycle compared to running a sanctioned downhill race. 1st off bikes have breaks & steering that farr exceed the abilities of a human on a slick surface going 60+ MPH. Racers aren't looking "over their shoulder" or should they be to see if the "coast is clear". They must put all distractions out of their mind and go 110%+ in downhill.

Thirdly, it is called a tuck or bully, not a crouch, this really makes it sound like you have absolutely no experience in or around a race course or the etiquette involved.

You seriously can't blame a racer for hitting someone who has no business being in the course. It is clearly the person who is the obstacle who is to blame.

The official's should be responsible for crossovers and such but cannot control every single person particularly coaches in the race arena It is up to each individual to be acutely aware of activity on the race course. You take this responsibility (like you said be responsible for yourself) when you step under the ropes in the race arena. I have spent man, many days at races for the past 9 years. Many times the coaches are shootin' the bull, talking on cell phones and radios to their other coaches on course or just telling jokes and not paying 100% attention. If a racer, official or slipper happens to fall and slide into them, this is the risk the coaches accept by being inside the arena. They often also stand where it is likely someon may come their way. There definetly are safer places than others to watch in side the ropes.
Firstly, let me say that what happened to your son is appalling. And, no, I would never blame a racer for hitting someone in the course.

"Reminder to self: Spouse says must now refer to 'crouch' as 'tuck' and must stop calling it a 'position'" ....Skipressworld, Early Season 2004/Volume 19//NO2

Secondly, there is no need to attack my language. I assure you that had I wished to pose as an ex-ski racer I could easily use the appropriate language which could easily be picked up merely by lurking on this and other forums. In fact, I have been skiing long enough to know what a "gentleman's tuck" is.
I thought I had made it quite clear by my statement, " As you have probably surmised, I have not participated in races" that I was not familiar with "ski race course etiquitte" as you put it, but since you missed that, let me make it clear to everybody. I have not participated in races (legal ones anyway). I am not pretending to know about sactioned ski race procedure. I know a "race" is very different from a practice. I do know that the environment is different on a race course even if a race is not going on. As to "Racers aren't looking "over their shoulder" or should they be to see if the "coast is clear" ". I was making that very point when I said that I had such trouble to learn not to look back when the marshal signalled me onto the course. A bike rider on a race track literally puts his life in the marshal's hands. It is very difficult to not look back when you might get t-boned by several hundred pounds of metal moving at 100mph, especially if you have spent a few years riding a motorcycle on public roads. My point was that a racer MUST rely on the officials. I was not implying that racers need to look over their shoulder.

Perhaps you feel that only people with experience setting up and running or participating in ski races should be allowed to voice their opinion on this matter. Obviously, I disagree.

BTW, I have riden a motorcycle at it's handling braking and accelerting limits, and I have skied on icy surfaces at 60+ MPH. I don't see much difference between the two. If you had ever experienced a momentary loss of rear wheel traction on a wet 120mph sweeper you might not find the two experiences so different either.
post #21 of 22
I tried searching for details on the accident without much success.

Several details stand out:

- She was coming over a bump ... probably in the air or light on her skis? She probably couldn't have even attemped to avoid what she didn't see coming in that position,

- Communications "problems" caused by two frequencies used by the teams,

- A "blind spot" (for the radios), on the glacier indicating that the German may have never heard the transmission as he attempted to repair the course.

It sounds like the whole "system" should be on trial. It sounds like an accident waiting for a place to happen!

Again, based on little fact, perhaps if the depositions are released, a story may emerge that it was not a single lapse that caused the accident but a series of failures that led up to the crash.

I hate to constantly revert to aviation "lore", but the statistics for accidents in 97% of the cases, indicate that a series of factors starting with poor planning, poor instruction and false "confidence" in an existing system lead to a crash.

Radio "blind spots" are common problems on any hill and are probably hard to solve on a glacier. But at our tiny hill, we use hard wire for critical points of observation.
post #22 of 22
Thread Starter 
Update : Annecy's prosecutor asked the court for a 10000Euros fine and a 4 to 6 months 'suspended' jail time for both the french coach and starter (I don't know the english word for that : a jail sentence you din't actualy serve, but which is on your record and will increase a following sentence). Prosecutor also said to both men he knew they must feel awfull about what happened, and that he wished he could ask for a sentence of community work related to the improvement of safety on ski races, but that the law didn't allow it.
Verdict on june 13th.

Yuki :
Quote:
Again, based on little fact, perhaps if the depositions are released, a story may emerge that it was not a single lapse that caused the accident but a series of failures that led up to the crash.
I hate to constantly revert to aviation "lore", but the statistics for accidents in 97% of the cases, indicate that a series of factors starting with poor planning, poor instruction and false "confidence" in an existing system lead to a crash
A few precisions. Apparently both team had jointly scheduled a pause after the 4th string of runs, for piste maintenance. Cavagnoud's coach authorized her to have a 5th run and failed, as the starter, to inform the german part (radio problems indeed). In the mind of the injured german coach the session was over and the track was clear.
Your analysis seems spot-on.
Atomic man : I feel sorry for your son.
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