March 6, 2013 / 9:12 PM / in 5 years

Canadian family threatens lawsuit over ski cross racer's death

TORONTO (Reuters) - The family of Canadian ski cross racer Nik Zoricic has threatened to sue the International Ski Federation (FIS) and Alpine Canada if they refuse to launch an independent investigation into his death by mid-June.

Zoricic died last March after suffering fatal head injuries when he crashed near the finish area during a World Cup race in Grindelwald, Switzerland, and the lawyer representing his family dismissed an inquiry by Swiss authorities as “incompetent.”

Tim Danson said FIS and Alpine Canada have until June 15 to undertake an investigation or face legal action the next day.

“FIS and Alpine Canada can either choose to be part of the process - part of the solution - or they can continue to bury their heads in the snow,” Danson said during a news conference on Wednesday alongside Zoricic’s father, mother and sister.

“We are bending over backwards to avoid such an outcome, but the resolve of the Zoricic family to honor and protect their son’s memory should not be underestimated.”

The FIS has no immediate plans to launch an investigation.

“The police report is the basis for the state prosecutor to decide whether any persons shall be charged and brought to court because of negligent homicide,” FIS said in a statement.

“The report says that the accident was not caused by a fault of any person. However the state prosecutor has not issued his decision yet and until this time we have no further comment to the investigation carried out by the state here in Switzerland.”

Alpine Canada said it is too soon to discuss whether they will launch an investigation given a need for more information than the interim report released by Swiss police last December.

“Alpine Canada is disappointed that a final report, which it would like to have the opportunity to thoroughly review, has still not been published,” Alpine Canada President Max Gartner said in a statement.

“With respect to calls for a separate, independent investigation, we continue to await the publication of the final Swiss police report and look forward to reviewing the investigation’s findings.”

The investigation by Swiss police called the death a freak accident.

But Danson said the police report was intended to protect powerful interests in Switzerland and one that distorts the truth by placing the blame on Zoricic.

Zoricic, who raced on the World Cup circuit for over three years and finished eighth in the 2011 world championships, died after landing wide right off the final jump on the course.

Danson called upon Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to help get an investigation started and described the final jump as a “death trap” that forced skiers out of bounds. He said the course was poorly groomed and used the wrong safety fences.

During the news conference Zoricic’s father flipped through a series of photos showing his son and two other skiers leaving the final jump on target but landing near the boundary line.

The Zoricic family has maintained an earlier promise to remove all legal options from the table in exchange for an independent and transparent investigation.

Editing by Gene Cherry

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