A drug-addicted ski instructor has been found responsible for the death of a renowned cancer surgeon who plummeted 750ft to his death while vacationing with his family in France.
An inquest heard that while under the influence of cannabis, Philippe Drigo agreed to transfer urology consultant William Choi to an advanced level group at the famous French alpine resort of La Plagne.
Later in the day, the group had ventured away from the marked ski run when suddenly father-of-two Choi lost his skies and tumbled down a steep slope.
The surgeon’s helmet came off when his head hit a “banana-shaped” rock before continuing down the hill.
Efforts to resuscitate the urologist failed and he died soon after after sustaining traumatic injuries to his neck and spine.
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The ski instructor was found guilty of manslaughter by French prosecutors, an inquest told Maidstone.
On the day of the accident, the urologist asked if he could be transferred to a higher group, led by Drigo, so that he could ski faster.
The instructor, who was responsible for supervising eight people, said the doctor had “underestimated” his own ability and should therefore join the next level group.
Eyewitnesses recalled how Choi “listened to and followed instructions” given by Drigo after reaching the top.
He began to slide rapidly down the 35 degree slope, but his skis caught an outcrop causing him to fall.
A post-mortem examination revealed that Choi had died from neck and spinal injuries known as craniocervical and thoracic trauma.
Drigo denied using drugs or alcohol when questioned by French police, but was later found to be under the influence of cannabis.
This may have had an impact on his judgment, the investigation was heard.
During the interrogation, Drigo said: “When William fell, I couldn’t do anything to avoid his fall because everything was very fast.”
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Investigators had found the snow to be hard and icy, making skiing difficult, although the instructor claimed it was ‘powdery’.
Station patrols, who were called in to help an unconscious Choi, later highlighted the difficulty the conditions posed.
If the area is not considered extreme, it is nevertheless reserved for experienced skiers” and “many falls” had occurred on the track that morning, according to the investigation.
A couple, Helen and Roger Hughes, left Choi’s band because they felt it was “too extreme” for them.
Hughes said: “In my opinion the accident could have been avoided if the ski instructor had correctly assessed his abilities.”
The inquest also learned how low cloud and poor weather conditions impacted skiers’ ability to assess the surroundings.
Deputy Coroner Hayes said Choi concluded: “I’m sure it wouldn’t be enough to say it was just an accident.
“I am satisfied that on the expert evidence given to the French prosecutor, they have brought a charge of manslaughter in this case.”
Choi, a well-respected consultant and chief urological surgeon for kidney cancer at East Kent Hospitals Trust, had heartache when he lost his wife, Debbie, to breast cancer 12 years ago. years.
After his death in 2016, Choi’s partner Abbey described him as “such a lovely man who would help anyone”.
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