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Page last updated at 18:14 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

German charged over ski death

Dieter Althaus (file)
Dieter Althaus was a key ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel

A German state premier has been charged with manslaughter over a collision on an Austrian ski slope in January in which a woman died.

Dieter Althaus, minister-president of Thuringia state, is accused by Austrian prosecutors of failing to observe regulations while skiing at high speed.

He is still recovering from the head injuries he sustained in the collision.

Prosecutors said Mr Althaus had told them he had no memory of the accident but took responsibility for the death.

In the accident on 1 January, Beata Christandl, a 41-year-old Slovakian mother-of-four, collided with Mr Althaus at a junction of two pistes in the Riesneralm ski resort. She died on the way to hospital after suffering from multiple head injuries.

Memorial to Beata Christandl at scene of collision on 2 January 2009
Beata Christandl's death has sparked debate about safety on the piste

Prosecutors said Mr Althaus had strayed onto the blue, or easy, slope on which Ms Christandl was travelling and skied some distance along it in the wrong direction.

Walter Ploebst, a spokesman for prosecutors in the town of Leoben, said they had filed the charges of manslaughter by culpable negligence at a court in Irdning on Monday.

If found guilty, Mr Althaus could be sentenced to up to two years in jail.

Members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Thuringia had earlier said they expected him to seek re-election as governor in August in spite of the charges.

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