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Skating coach was responsible for the death of British cancer surgeon, 48, at inquest


William Choi, a father of two, lost his sky and retreated to a very steep slope

A cannabis ski instructor was responsible for the death of a prominent cancer surgeon who fell 750 feet while on vacation with his family, according to an inquiry.

Consultant urologist William Choi, 48, was described as an intermediate skier – good level 2 or beginning level 3 – when visitors to the popular French Alpine resort of La Plagne were assessed on their skill on the morning of March 21, 2016.

On the first day of the planned week of skiing, Mr. Choi, a father of two, enjoyed lunch with his two sons Alex and Xavier, partner Abby, and daughter Phoebe.

But before hitting the slopes, Mr. Choi asked to move to a higher group, led by Philip Drigo, so that he could ski faster, despite there being “insufficient introduction to off-piste skiing”.

The coach, who was in charge of supervising eight people, said that Mr. Choi had “underestimated” his ability, and therefore should join the “three tiers”.

Mr. Choi is gone off piste with his group and He lost his sled, rolled down a steep incline and hit his head on a rock that had dropped his helmet as he rushed down the Lucite Pass.

Desperate efforts were made to revive the urologist, who worked at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent, but he died shortly thereafter after suffering injuries to the neck and spine.

Drigo denied using drugs or alcohol when questioned by French police, but it was later revealed that he was under the influence of cannabis, and this may have affected his judgment, it was said in an investigation in Maidstone, Kent.

The inquest heard that Driego had been convicted of manslaughter by French prosecutors, and Assistant District Judge Sonia Hayes agreed that Mr. Choi’s death resulted from gross negligence, but the punishment he faced was not disclosed.

Philippe Drigo, who was under the influence of cannabis, agreed to transfer consultant urologist William Choi to an advanced level group at the famous La Plagne resort (pictured)

Philippe Drigo, who was under the influence of cannabis, agreed to transfer consultant urologist William Choi to an advanced level group at the famous La Plagne resort (pictured)

In the afternoon, Mr. Choi and seven others drove up the Lucite Pass to the top of a 35-degree slope. Eyewitnesses told how Mr. Choi “listened and followed the instructions” given by Drigo.

He started walking down the aisle quickly but his skis got stuck on a bump, causing him to start stumbling.

His head hit a “banana-shaped” rock, causing him to lose his helmet from the impact and continue to collapse. By the time he stopped at the bottom of the trail, he had fallen more than 750 feet.

His fatal descent down the slope was caught on camera, and the footage was later handed over to authorities as part of the investigation.

An autopsy revealed that Mr. Choi died of injuries to the neck and spine known as cranio-thoracic trauma.

French police later questioned Drego, who denied using drugs or alcohol .. But it was found that he was under the influence of cannabis, which could have affected his judgment in the investigation.

“When William fell I couldn’t do anything to avoid him falling because everything was so fast,” he said in an interview with the police.

Evidence from investigators found that the snow was hard and icy, making it difficult to ski – despite Drigo’s claim that it was ‘powdered’.

Patrols from the resort – who were called to assist the unconscious Mr. Choi – later pointed out the difficulty these conditions posed to the police.

Inquiry was heard though the trail is “not considered extreme, however intended for experienced skiers” and there were “many falls” on the slope that morning.

One of the spouses, Helen and Roger Hughes, left the group that Mr. Choi was in because they felt it was “too extreme” for them.

“In my opinion, the accident could have been avoided if the ski instructor had properly assessed their abilities,” said Ms Hughes.

Hughes added: “Philip never asked if we were OK and if we were happy to continue. As such I decided to leave the group and decided that the position he was taking us to was too dangerous.

The investigation also heard how low clouds and adverse weather conditions affected skiers’ ability to assess the surroundings.

Mr. Choi was with a group led by a coach at La Plagne in the French Alps

Mr. Choi was with a group led by a coach at La Plagne in the French Alps

The toxicology report revealed no drugs or alcohol in Mr. Choi’s system could have affected his senses or judgment. There were also no defects in his equipment.

The coroner’s assistant told Ms. Hayes how Mr. Choi had “insufficient introduction to off-piste skating”.

She concluded, “I am convinced that it will not suffice to say that it was an accident.”

We have heard from Mrs. Hughes that this accident could have been avoided.

“I am convinced that, based on the expert evidence presented to the French prosecutor, they have brought a manslaughter charge in this case.”

It agreed with the French courts that Mr. Choi’s death resulted from gross negligence. The punishment that Drego faced was not disclosed.

Mr. Choi was a highly respected Physician and Urological Surgeon for Kidney Cancer at East Kent Hospitals Trust.

He was Vice President of the Kidney Cancer Service and Chief of Laparoscopic Urology for the Kent Cancer Network.

He was appointed as a consultant at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and then developed Laparoscopic Renal Surgery in East Kent.

He was heartbroken when he lost his wife Debbie to breast cancer 12 years ago.

After his death, Abe, Choi’s partner, described him as “a lovable man who would help anyone.”

Speaking about the tragedy, she said: “Bill was a very experienced skater who always wore a helmet and never took any risks.

We were in different groups and I just got a phone call telling me to go back to the hotel because Bill had a fall.

My first thought was that he might have broken his leg, but he died. It’s devastating, especially for the boys, whose mother Debbie has passed away.



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