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Hotel Owner Cleared Over Friso Avalanche Blame

The Austrian hotel owner Florian Moosbrugger who was with Dutch Prince Friso when he was buried by an avalanche in February has had negligent assault charges dropped by prosecutors.

Moosbrugger, 42, a long-time friend of the Prince, survived because he was wearing an avalanche rucksack that inflates if the wearer is buried by an avalanche. The Prince, however, had not been carrying a similar device.

The pair had carried on despite signs warning of an avalanche. The resulting accident in the ski resort in Lech left Prince Friso in a coma after he was buried by a 30 meter wide avalance.

Prince Friso is still in a coma in London at the Wellington Hospital in St Johns Wood. He was moved there by air ambulance from Austria two weeks after the accident.

Rescuers estimate he was trapped between 15 and 20 minutes under the snow and that his heart had stopped for about 20 minutes, leaving his brain without oxygen.

Friso who would have been second in line to the Dutch throne gave up the claim after he married Dutch commoner Mabel Wisse Smit in 2004. The couple have two daughters – Luana and Zaria.

Lech is one of Austria's top ski resorts popular with celebrities like Tom Cruise but also with members of Europe's royal families. It was known to be one of the favourite ski destinations of the late Princess Diana.

Prosecutor Heinz Rusch said: "The 42-year-old Austrian and also the Prince were experienced skiers and both would have known that travelling in areas which were below regions of heavy snow and off piste had a risk of avalanche and of being buried. That is why both of them were equipped with avalanche detection devices."

He said that even if one of the two skiers had been more experienced than the other he could still not be blamed for the accident as both of them had known there was a risk. He said this would be different if the hotel owner had in some way forced or encouraged the Prince to travel with him but there was no evidence of this.

Moosbrugger's family said that even Dutch Queen Beatrix had told them that he should not feel guilty about what happened.

Local Mayo Ludwig Muxel also welcomed the prosecutor's decision saying that the community could now move on, and everybody had hoped that no charges would be filed.

He also said that despite the accident the connection of the region with the Dutch Royal family remained – adding: "I would say it is even stronger now." He said the Dutch royal family had been visitors to the region for the winter holiday for decades.

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