|A deadly skiing accident in which a woman was killed and a powerful politician narrowly survived has captivated Germany, as a seemingly straightforward human tragedy has evolved into a criminal inquiry with political ramifications in a critical election year.
Dieter Althaus, the minister president, or prime minister, of the eastern German state of Thuringia and an important ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, faces an investigation into involuntary manslaughter in connection with his collision on New Year's Day with the woman, Beata Christandl, on a ski slope at the Austrian resort of Riesneralm.
Christandl, 41, a Slovak who lived in the United States, was not wearing a helmet and died of her injuries. Althaus, 50, was wearing a helmet, but he remains hospitalized with head injuries.
Since the accident, German newspapers and magazines have been filled with conjecture about who was to blame — with Althaus bearing the brunt of suspicion — and photographs of the intersection of the two ski trails where the accident occurred, crisscrossed with arrows and lines describing the paths each of the skiers followed to their collision.
Both skiers were experienced, according to friends, but the location of the collision appears to indicate that Althaus hooked around a crash barrier and onto Christandl's slope.
A criminal charge is under consideration. We need more of that. In the State of Washington (and probably most skiing states) the Skiers Responsibility Code--and more--is state law--RCW 79A.45. We need enforcement. Leaving the scene of a snowsports accident without identifying themselves if assistance is needed is a criminal violation.