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Five-year-old killed by piste-basher

The 32-year-old piste-basher driver who killed the kid and hit his father (33) in December 2011 has been sentenced to six months in jail and a 3,060-Euro fine.

The 51-year-old operations manager and the company responsible for preparing the slopes, Bergbahnen Werfenweng GmbH, were free to go.

The driver of the machine was charged with involuntary manslaughter in dangerous conditions, causing injuries through gross negligence had admitted to the fault.

He said: "I didn't see the pair. My mistake was that I concentrated on a snowboarder and wasn't careful enough."

Two witnesses at the time made the driver aware that he had run-over the boy and his dad. The snow-canons on the piste-basher had obstructed the driver's view.

Besides the jail sentence, the driver has been sentence to pay a substantial fine. At the time of the incident, he was also ordered to pay the father, who was badly injured, 5,000 Euros in damages and 10,000 Euros bereavement compensation.

The operations manager on the other hand claimed his innocence. Lawyer for the 51-year-old and the mountain company Harald Schwendinger explained that the transport of snow-canons at the time of the accident was "completely unregulated" at the time of the incident. For security reasons, a skidoo driver was accompanying the piste-basher.

Schwendinger said that the terrible incident happened because the skidoo-driver had lost a matt and therefore stayed behind. The driver of the piste-basher had not noticed and continued driving on. The lawyer explained that there had been strict instructions to be accompanied by a skidoo driver or have a passenger in the piste-basher when transporting snow-canons. He said: "The machine only had some 140 metres to cover – a very short distance."

Judge Günther Nocker asked the defendants whether there had been strict instructions to the escort the piste-bashers communicated on December 25.

The driver of the machine said he had planned for a skidoo to drive ahead, but there wasn't an official notice on that particular date. The operations manager told the court it had been communicated orally. Another witness said that the instruction had only been given after the accident.

Guidance stipulates piste-bashers should only ride during lift-working hours in the case of an emergency or "necessity" such as the removal of danger-zones and skier's safety.

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