An avalanche buried and seriously injured the second son of Dutch Queen Beatrix while he skied off marked trails on Friday in the westernmost corner of Austria and he was rushed to the intensive care unit of an Innsbruck hospital, officials said.
The Dutch government, which initially said the 43-year-old's life was in danger later issued an update saying “his condition is stable but not out of danger”.
“Her Majesty the Queen and [Friso's wife] Princess Mabel are with Prince Friso,” said the Dutch statement, adding “doctors treating him will only be able to give a prognosis in a matter of days”.
Stefan Jochum, a spokesman for the municipality of Lech and its ski regions, said the accident happened Friday afternoon as the prince was on slopes away from the marked Lech ski runs and laden with snow after weeks of record falls. He said the prince was accompanied by three other skiers. Other officials said only one other person was with him.
The Lech municipal office said a regional avalanche warning issued for the day was four on the five-point scale, meaning the danger was high.
“A snow slide came down and the prince was buried as the only member of the group” said Jochum in a telephone interview. A rescue helicopter was on the scene within minutes and after he was located, he was resuscitated and flown to the hospital, said Mr. Jochum.
The Austria Press Agency cited Lech Mayor Ludwig Muxel as saying prince Friso was buried for about 20 minutes by a snow mass that measured around 30 metres (more than 30 yards) by 40 meters when it hit him.
Spokeswoman Pia Herbst of the Lech region tourist authority said rescuers found the prince through signals of an avalanche transceiver on his body.
Dutch national broadcaster NOS broke into its regular programming to give the story rolling minute-to-minute coverage as the news broke, speaking to medical experts and avalanche specialists.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, in comments carried by NOS radio, said he had told the queen and the prince's wife that “the whole Dutch people sympathises with them very intensely”.
Online polls done around the April 30 Queen's Day national holiday reflect a high degree of affection for the royals. The last one in 2011 showed that three-quarters of 547 respondents were happy with the queen.
Prince Friso was in Lech along with other members of the royal family, whose members ski regularly there. The upscale resort area has also been a popular winter holiday destination for Tom Cruise, the late Princess Diana and other celebrities.
The second of Beatrix's three sons, prince Friso gave up any claim to the Dutch throne to marry Dutch commoner Mabel Wisse Smit, in 2004. The pair have two daughters, Emma and Joanna. He most recently worked as financial director at Urenco, the Eueropean uranium-enrichment consortium.
After they announced their intention to marry in 2003, the Dutch media revealed that Wisse Smit's previous friendships with a well-known figure in the Dutch underworld.