The tragic death of a young skier at a French resort has led to a criminal trial for the resort owner, SAEM Sports and Tourism, and the lift operator. Kieran Brookes, 14, was strangled when the straps of his backpack became entangled as he tried to unload from a lift in the Alpine resort of Chatel in February 2011. Kieran, who went to Torquay Grammar School in England, was on a six-seat ski lift at Châtel when he tried to unload at the top of the slope.
Kieran was suspended by his clothes for around four minutes before he was released, according to witness accounts. Rescue workers tried to revive him before he was taken to hospital in Annecy with a severe brain injury. He was transferred to the Royal Devon Exeter Hospital Intensive Care Unit where he died nearly a month later, on March 17, 2011.
Kieran’s family were in court at Thonon Les Bains, where the case is being heard before three judges. The lift attendant, Richard Cettour, 50, told the court how a ‘panic-stricken’ woman, who did not speak English, ran into the hut and told him to hit the emergency stop on the lift. He testified that was cleaning tools at the time and when he finally got outside, all he could see was ‘Kieran’s skis on the ground’. The French lift attendant is facing a suspended prison sentence following ‘ten seconds of carelessness’ that resulted in the death of the British schoolboy.
The prosecution said they would be seeking a one-year jail term for Richard Cettour and a 75,000 euros (£55,500) fine for SAEM. Among the charges Mr. Cettour and SAEM Sports are accused of is failing to enforce a rule banning skiers from boarding the lift while wearing backpacks, not carrying out daily checks on equipment and not ensuring a safety device which could stop the lift was properly installed.
Mr. Cettour is also accused of a number of failings, including not being at his post at the time of the accident and not reacting to other skiers’ calls to hit the emergency stop.
The company has denied ‘criminal guilt’ for the accident because they say there is no proof that he was wearing a backpack when he got on the lift.
A ruling on the case will be handed down on November 17.
A separate civil case against the company’s insurers will be tried in the UK.