Formula One legend Michael Schumacher was not skiing at high speed when he suffered a severe accident, his manager says, blaming instead a “chain of unfortunate circumstances”.
Schumacher was skiing “with a small group of friends” as well as his 14-year-old son Mick, his manager Sabine Kehm told journalists at the Grenoble Hospital where he is being treated.
In the accident, “apparently the helmet broke,” she said.
“That doesn’t mean that Michael was travelling at high speed. He seems to have hit a rock as he took a turn. It was a chain of unfortunate circumstances.”
Kehm added that the accident could have happened even “at 10 kilometres per hour” and took place during “a normal turning manoeuvre”.
Several media reports have suggested that he was skiing at high speed at the time, with some saying he could have been going as fast as 60 to 100 kilometres an hour.
Germany’s top-selling Bild newspaper quoted her saying that Schumacher was only gathering speed at the time, having apparently just helped a skiing companion to his feet after a fall.
“Michael was skiing on a normal piste with the group,” Kehm was quoted saying. “Nearby was an area of deep snow. Michael skied into it. He wasn’t going fast because he had apparently just helped a friend who had fallen down.
“So Michael just got going again, skied into the deep snow and then – we suspect – hit the rock as he entered a curve.
“Michael was not going very fast. But unfortunately as he took the turn, we assume, he hit the rock and was catapulted upwards and then struck a rock head-first.”
Journalist dressed as fake priest tried to sneak into room
Ms Kehm also said a person dressed as a priest, reportedly a journalist, tried to get into Schumacher’s hospital room.
“There have been several interesting incidents here at the hospital,” she said.
“There apparently was a person dressed-up as a priest, who tried to get near Michael. I am asking everyone to let the doctors work and leave the family (to) spend peaceful time with Michael.”
Responding to a question as to whether the priest was a journalist, she said: “It’s what I was told… We have clearly noted that people are trying to get beyond the press room here in the clinic. It’s revolting, in my opinion.”
Condition improves slightly
Schumacher has been in a coma since the crash on Sunday and underwent a second brain operation on New Year’s Eve.
Doctors said his condition had improved slightly, but warned he was still in danger.
“The situation is more under control than yesterday but we cannot say he is out of danger,” head anaesthetician Jean-Francois Payen told a news conference.
“We have won some time but we must continue an hour-by-hour surveillance.
“It is premature to speculate on his condition.”
On Monday doctors had said the 44-year-old German was fighting for his life after a post-operation scan showed widespread lesions on both sides of his brain.