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Prince Charles Escapes Avalanche, But Friend Killed

March 10, 1988 GMT

KLOSTERS, Switzerland (AP) _ Prince Charles escaped an avalanche while skiing today, but the snowslide killed one of his friends and injured another.

Buckingham Palace identified the dead man as Maj. Hugh Lindsay, a former equerry, or aide, to Charles’s mother, Queen Elizabeth II. A woman in the party, Patricia Palmer-Tomkinson, suffered leg injuries, the palace said.

The palace said Charles was not injured. But witnesses said the prince looked distraught, and one said he was weeping and shaking as a helicopter arrived to pick him up.

Charles’ wife, Diana, and Sarah Ferguson, his pregnant sister-in-law, were not on the slopes at the time, the palace said.

Swiss authorities said the snowslide on Mt. Gotschnagrat near Klosters began about 300 feet above a group of six skiers that included Prince Charles. The prince and three other people were unharmed.

The palace said the party was skiing off the main ski run and was stationary when the avalanche began at 2:45 p.m.

″All members of the party were in a position to take avoiding action with the exception of Maj. Lindsay and Mrs. Palmer-Tomkinson, who were both caught in the avalanche,″ it said.

Lindsay, 34, was a serving army major and a friend of Charles and Diana. He was married to a Buckingham Palace press secretary who was expecting a baby, the palace said.

Peter Balsiger, editor-in-chief of the Zurich-based newspaper Blick, was quoted as saying he was told Charles, 39, helped dig one person out of the snow.

The palace statement said a Swiss guide and members of the royal party helped dig the victims free. It did not say whether Charles was among the diggers.

A French photographer told BBC radio he saw Charles being comforted by someone as a helicopter took off with a stretcher.

BBC TV news said the queen was understood to have spoken to the family at the chalet where they gathered after the tragedy.

The 1988 Good Ski Guide describes the run where the accident occurred as ″a slope of awesome steepness, dropping about 500 meters (yards).″

Prince Charles skied the area many times during his bachelor days and is credited with giving Klosters its exclusive tag.

The guide says: ″Prince Charles is no doubt pleased to have put (it) behind him; mercifully it is rarely open.″

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″They (avalanches) are extremely difficult to predict. That is what makes them so dangerous,″ said Peter Cliff, an Alpine guide and leader of the Cairngorm mountain rescue team in Scotland.

The most common is the snow-slab avalanche, when snow driven by wind creates a crusted surface, underlaid with air pockets, and is liable to fracture across the entire width of a slope.

Without warning, massive slides can be set off by temperature increases, new falls of snow or skiers and climbers.

The royals arrived in Switzerland on Tuesday.

Charles, Diana and the Duchess of York, who is married to Charles’ younger brother Prince Andrew, posed for photographers at Klosters on Wednesday for photographers. The 28-year-old duchess, the former Sarah Ferguson, is expecting her first baby in August.