'She effectively died on the slope – she won't recover': Mother of snowboarder on life support says it is only a matter of time until machine is switched off
Experienced snowboarder Mimi Watts suffered cardiac arrest in mountain fall26-year-old is now critically ill in hospital and on life support
Family say 'bright, clever and pretty' young lady 'will need miracle to survive'
She had only been in France working at resort for 'a few weeks'
00:26 GMT, 12 December 2012
A British student was in a coma on life support last night following a freak snowboarding accident in the French Alps.
Emily Watts, 26, who is known as Mimi, was performing jumps off the side of a piste when she plunged into a 5ft hole covered by snow and suffocated after she landed face down and unconscious in a snowdrift.
She lay there for up to 45 minutes before being spotted and rescued, during which time she was partially starved of oxygen and had a heart attack.
Emily, known as Mimi, Watts is on life support after a snowboarding accident in the French Alps. She was trapped in a snowdrift for 45 minutes and suffered a cardiac arrest
Miss Watts was airlifted to hospital in nearby Annecy, where she is in intensive care in a critical condition.
Last night, her mother Nicola McAllister said Miss Watts was brain dead and it was just a matter of time until her life-support machine was turned off.
The 62-year-old said: ‘She effectively died on the slope – she won’t recover. She has no chance. We are devastated. It is in the hands of the doctors now when they turn her life-support machine off.’
Mrs McAllister, a former stockbroker, arrived in France yesterday with Miss Watts’s father Dominic and brother Rory, 27.
Chamonix is a popular ski resort as Mont Blanc is the highest peak west of Russia. Skiers from throughout Europe and the world flock there every season
Although the accident happened on Saturday, they were not told until Sunday because Miss Watts was not carrying documents and police could not identify her.
Speaking from the hospital, Rory, a graphic designer from London, said: ‘She was always breaking the boundaries and would make sure everyone was having fun. We will stay by her side now.’
Mrs McAllister, who runs an agricultural consultancy business in Lavenham, Suffolk, with her second husband Malcolm, said: ‘Her friends were ahead of her and didn’t know anything had happened until they got to the bottom of the slope.
‘She was the best snowboarder of the group and it had never crossed their minds she wouldn’t turn up.’
Miss Watts moved to Chamonix two weeks ago to look for a job.
She had studied costume design and wanted to go to university in September and create a range of clothes for snowboarders.
The day before the accident she texted her mother to say she had found work managing holiday flats and was ‘very happy’.
Miss Watts’s father, a garden sculptor, said: ‘One thing we will hold on to is that she was doing what she loved. Before she went to Chamonix she said there was nothing more that she wanted to do than snowboard and do a season out there.
‘The day she had her accident it was a beautiful sunny day and she had had a great day on the slopes.’
Her aunt Shona Pollock, 58, had said
yesterday the whole family were in shock and devastated that she was
showing no signs of improvement.
Describing Mimi as 'heavenly' and
with a 'passion for life', Ms Pollock said her parents and
brothers had rushed to be at her bedside.
'She is not doing very well at all really, and tragically she is not going to get any better. She is still alive, but she is not very well,' she said.
other skier was thought to be involved, as Miss Watts came off her
board and 'fell down a steep incline' at high speed, reported local
A source close to the French emergency services said: 'She went just a couple of metres off-piste in an area dotted with small bushes and fell down a 1.5m “hole” created by snow ploughs. She fell head first into thick snow and was knocked unconscious.
'She had already been in cardiac arrest for dozens of minutes by the time rescue services reached the scene.'
Ms Pollack said: 'They believe she may have fallen head first into fresh powder and probably knocked herself out.
'When they found her she had been smothered in snow, almost like her body had been drowning in snow – and her brain has been starved of oxygen.
'Short of a miracle I just don’t think she is going to get better. She had 45 minutes on the mountain with her heart stopped.
'It is truly devastating. She is so bright and sadly all of her plans for the future are to be no more.
'She is still on a life support machine but that is not for long – It sadly looks as though she won’t recover.
'She was looked after superbly there by police, mountain rescue and the hospital, they were terrific.'
Authorities said weather conditions had been good and that snow had been falling for most of Saturday.
A snowboarders on the Argentiere Glacier, Chamonix, near where Mimi was hurt. It offers some of the hardest pistes in Europe (file picture)
Ms Pollock, who runs a catering
company in Barnes, London said: 'Mimi is such a bright and artistic
young woman, her poor mother and father are in pieces, she had
everything going for her.
was with her mum Nicky when they got the call to say that she had been
in an accident. We were all having an early Christmas gathering and she
got the call and the colour just drained from her.
'The whole family went into panic
mode and we got her mum, dad and brother out on the first possible
flight we could to be with her on Sunday.
'It is terribly sad and a very
difficult time for Mimi’s family as they sit with her on a life support
machine, she had only just left to work in Chamonix for the ski season.
'She went out there because she is a passionate snowboarder. I think Saturday was the first day of the season. Mimi is heavenly, she's the nicest girl you could ever meet. She had worked really hard all summer to go.
'She was a brilliant snowboarder, it is just one of those tragic, awful accidents.'
Miss Watts had been a keen horserider and raced Shetland ponies when she was younger.
She had graduated from the University of Sussex a couple of years ago after studying fashion design but hoped to return in September 2013 to study an MA in graphic design.