Dutch prince may never regain consciousness after skiing accident, doctors say

Prince Johan Friso headshot over View of the skiing resort of Lech, western Austria,
Dutch Prince Johan Friso stands with his wife Princess Mabel and Princess Marilene during the traditional Queens Day celebratons on April 29, 2006, in the Netherlands.
Michel Porro/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) Dutch Prince Johan Friso, who was buried by an avalanche while skiing off-trail in Austria last week, has suffered massive brain damage and may never regain consciousness, his doctors said Friday.

Pictures: Prince Johan Friso
Pictures: Royals visit Prince Johan Friso

Dr. Wolfgang Koller, head of trauma at the Innsbruck hospital where Friso is being treated, told a news conference broadcast live on Dutch national television that it took nearly 50 minutes to reanimate the prince after he was pulled from the snow. He had been buried for 25 minutes before rescuers found him.

"It is clear that the oxygen starvation has caused massive brain damage to the patient," Koller said. "At the moment, it cannot be predicted if he will ever regain consciousness."

Friso will be moved at a later date to a rehabilitation clinic for further treatment. But Koller cautioned that it may take years before he awakens from his coma, if he ever does, and any recovery from such significant brain damage is a process of "months or even years."

The accident occurred as Friso was skiing off-piste in Lech, Austria, despite avalanche warnings, with a childhood friend from the alpine village that the Dutch royal family has been visiting each winter for years.

The friend was carrying an avalanche "air bag" and escaped without serious injury. Friso was found with the help of a signaling device he was carrying and was flown by helicopter to the Innsbruck Clinic.

But "50 minutes of reanimation is extremely long. You could say too long," Koller said.

The doctor said that due to protocols for minimizing brain damage after such an accident, it had only been possible to conduct an MRI scan of Friso's brain on Thursday.

Frisco, 43, is the second of Dutch Queen Beatrix's three sons. He lived in London with his wife, Princess Mabel, and their two daughters, Luana, 6, and 5-year-old Zaria.

Members of the family, including Queen Beatrix, Friso's older brother Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, and others have traveled to and from the hospital in a steady stream amid a grim atmosphere in the week following the accident.