German politician convicted in Austria ski death | SierraSun.com

German politician convicted in Austria ski death

WILLIAM J. KOLE
Associated Press Writer

VIENNA ” A German politician involved in a fatal collision with a fellow skier at the intersection of two trails in Austria was convicted Tuesday of negligent homicide.

Dieter Althaus, a German state governor, did not attend Tuesday’s trial because he is still recovering from head injuries sustained in the Jan. 1 collision at the Riesneralm ski area in Austria’s Upper Styria region.

The deadly accident sparked a debate over ways to improve safety on the slopes, and whether to enact legislation requiring skiers and snowboarders to wear protective head gear. Althaus, an experienced and good skier, was wearing a helmet; the woman who died was not.

Prosecutors said Althaus has told them that he has no memory of the accident but takes responsibility for the 41-year-old woman’s death. The court in the southern city of Graz fined him €33,000 ($41,550) and ordered him to pay another €5,000 ($6,300) to the victim’s husband.

Althaus, 50, is the governor of the eastern Germany state of Thuringia and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union.

The governor’s office in Erfurt, Germany, said Althaus accepted the verdict.

“I stand by my responsibility, as it is shown by the reconstruction of the accident, although I cannot remember the skiing accident,” Althaus said in a statement.

The trial was a surprise: It had not been announced in advance, and Austrian prosecutors had disclosed only on Monday that they had filed charges against Althaus.

Members of Althaus’ party have said that despite the accident and his ongoing recovery, they expect him to seek re-election in a state vote on Aug. 30.

“The Thuringia CDU stands behind Dieter Althaus,” Heiko Senebald, a spokesman for the party’s regional branch, said after the verdict. “He is and remains our candidate and will return to politics.”