Suspended jail for husband that killed wife in avalanche

A husband has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after he set off an avalanche in which his wife subsequently died as they were on a ski tour in Obertauern, Austria in winter 2010.

The court in Linz, Austria, yesterday found the 65-year-old guilty of the charges after deciding he had set off the avalanche.

His wife, aged 58, had set off first down the slope and then he had followed down the steep off piste slope; but his movement triggered the avalanche which swept his wife to her death on the 2,228 metre high Sichelwand at the Obertauern ski resort.

The man had tried in vain to dig out his wife who was stuck under one metre of snow. When rescuers managed to free her she was already dead. She had massive head injuries and her mouth was full of snow.

In Autumn 2011 the husband was sentenced a three month suspended sentence for involuntary manslaughter.  The court told him he should have realized the danger and should not have gone down the mountain, nor allowed his wife to do so.

The man appealed the sentence, and his legal team argued that his wife took the responsibility herself to go down the mountain and she would have been aware of the danger.  The woman had her avalanche detector switched off in her rucksack.  However the court has now rejected the appeal.

The decision proved very controversial amongst mountain rescue experts who claimed it linked being an alpinist to a criminal offence and took away the element of personal responsibility.