Death on the Alps Fuels Safety Debate

Dieter Althaus, a leading politician in Germany and close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, recently returned home from Austria after a ski collision in which he was involved killed a woman.

Police are questioning the sole witness and investigations could lead to charges of involuntary manslaughter against Althaus.

After the accident on New Year's Day at the Riesneralm ski area in central Austria, Althaus, 50, was rushed by helicopter to a hospital in Schwarzach with serious head injuries, including minor bleeding in the brain and skull fractures.

Beata Christandl, 41, the mother of a 1-year-old, died en route to the hospital. He was wearing a helmet. She was not.

Althaus was reportedly skiing against the flow of skiers when he rounded a corner and crashed head on with Christandl.

The politician, who was initially placed in a medically induced coma and has since come out, is reportedly unable to remember details of the collision. He was notified Friday about the death of Christandl. Neither Althaus nor his representatives were available to ABC News for comment.

Rolf Kalff, the director of neurosurgery at the hospital where Althaus is being treated, said at a news conference today that Althaus, governor of the German state of Thuringiais, is improving day to day but has occasional problems with orientation of time and place.

Bernard Christandl, the victim's husband, spoke this weekend about his family's loss and his son. Since the accident, his nights have been sleepless, although, "when the little one wakes up next to me in bed at 5:30 a.m.and smiles, this is a nice wake up," he told German media. "Unfortunately, it is without my wife there."

When asked about what kind of role fault played in the collision, he said, fault "doesn't play a role. It was an accident. My wife is dead and she isn't coming back."

The event has sparked scandal in Germany, provoked by the possible charges of manslaughter and questions of whether Althaus was skiing responsibly. Walter Plöbst, an Austrian senior state prosecutor, noted to ABC News that in Austria any accidents resulting in death require a court trial.

"If we find that Mr. Althaus caused the accident due to negligence, he must go to trial," he said. "It's not possible to settle outside of court."

The investigation will take more than four weeks to conclude.

Helmet Safety Law Divides Europe

The high-profile accident has heated up the debate on helmet safety in Germany and beyond.

Europe has staggering numbers of tourists every winter, sloshing through the Alps of France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.

This year has been an exceptional season for skiing. Early snow and cold temperatures have driven more people to the mountains.

The recent fatality in Austria has led lawmakers and slope communities across Europe to question why they don't have a unified ski safety regulation in place. According to the Austrian Committee on Traffic Safety, there are about 55,000 skiing injuries per year. Ten percent of all ski injuries are head-related.

On Christmas Day, a 16-year-old boy at an Italian ski resort near Bolzano hit and killed a father who was skiing on the slopes with his daughter. He said he was unaware that the man was seriously injured and left the scene. He later turned himself in when he realized what he had done.

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