Inquest hears that St Albans police officer dies in skiing accident

Inquest hears that expert skier died due to a “tragic combination of circumstances” on the slopes of France.

AN EXPERT skier of more than 30 years died after losing a ski and crashing into an unprotected wooden post, an inquest heard today.

Michael Probert, 42, of Marshalswick Lane in St Albans, had the fatal accident during a skiing holiday with wife Emma in the French Alps on March 15, 2009.

On the first day of skiing the couple headed down an easy blue run but one of Mr Probert’s skis become detached from his boot. He remained upright on one ski for a time but then fell and slid at speed before colliding with a wooden post – one of only four that weren’t protected by safety padding – and falling down a steep slope. Despite wearing a safety helmet, Mr Probert, who was a police officer with the Met for more than 20 years, died as a result of a severe head injury.

During the inquest deputy coroner David Pidgeon referred to a report compiled by the French police which found that although Mr Probert’s skis, which he hired, were adjusted accordingly, the binding on one of them failed and broke into a number of pieces – but they were unable to determine whether or not it was due to a manufacturing fault.

One witness described Mr Probert, who also ran a building company, falling heavily onto the snow, which was hard due to a very cold night, when he lost balance and it is possible that he suffered chest and abdomen injuries at that point and lost consciousness.

Mr Pidgeon said: “In my view it was probably the collision with the unprotected wooden post which caused the severe head injury from which Mr Probert died. The French investigation concluded that it was common sense and good practice to have protected it like others in the vicinity. I’m not here to apportion blame but it clearly is an issue.”

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He continued: “It was a tragic combination of circumstances. Despite being an expert skier and wearing a protective helmet, which most skiers don’t do, he fell while negotiating a blue run. He slid along the slope but had struck a wooden post – one of only four unprotected posts – and sustained the fatal injury. What had caused him to fall in the first place was the ski binding failing but the expected cause of that failure remains unclear.”

Mr Pidgeon concluded that Mr Probert died an accidental death caused by “serious cranio-facial trauma.”

Drawing on a statement by Mrs Probert, a police sergeant with the Royal Protection Force who has also won praise for her actions in the July 7 bombings in London, Mr Pigeon said: “He was an active man who lived life to the full. He had a good number of sporting interests including tennis, cycling, water skiing and skiing.”