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Helmet camera footage key to Schumacher inquiry

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm •  Published: January 8, 2014
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ALBERTVILLE, France (AP) — For adventure athletes, it's the new essential: a video of their exploits.

On social media, slogans such as "It ain't bragging" read like a mission statement proclaimed by high-octane sports seekers who strap tiny cameras on to their helmets, bikes and bodies to document their weekend and vacation adventures.

Forget holiday snaps. Now only video action will do for a shoot-it-and-share-it generation of skiers and skydivers, snowboarders and bike riders.

Michael Schumacher was wearing a camera on his ski helmet when he sustained severe brain injuries falling headfirst onto a rock Dec. 29 on a French Alps slope during a family vacation. He remains in a critical but stable condition while doctors at a hospital in Grenoble keep him in a medically induced coma to ease the stress on his brain.

On Wednesday, the prosecutor and investigators examining what caused the retired Formula One great's crash in Meribel told of what they had learned so far from two minutes of images, which were not made public.

"He was skiing between three and six meters (10 and 20 feet) away from the regular ski trail," Albertville prosecutor Patrick Quincy told a news conference at the Palace of Justice in the 1992 Winter Olympics host city.

"At one point, his skis struck the top of a rock slightly visible above the snow. He loses his balance and his body falls ahead of the rock. His head hits a rock located approximately 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) below. The first rock and the second one that he hit with his head are eight meters (26 feet) away from the border of the ski trail."

Quincy said more detailed, frame-by-frame analysis was ongoing, though it seemed clear that Schumacher was not skiing at excessive speed.

"His pace was completely normal for a skilled skier," said Lt. Col. Benoit Vinneman of the regional police investigation unit.

Olympic champions such as snowboard icon Shaun White and downhill racer Lindsey Vonn have helped spread the word about helmet cameras sponsored by brand-leading camera manufacturers such as California-based GoPro.

The footage filmed using the devices, which typically retail for $300-$600, also is used by investigators trying to piece together the chain of events in the aftermath of crashes and accidents.

Since Schumacher also is an accomplished skydiver, an activity where helmet cameras are widely used to capture the adrenalized thrill of the descent, it was not unusual that he should have, and wear, one for a Sunday morning skiing outing with family and close friends.

After two Icelandic skydivers died jumping alongside each other in Florida last year, footage from their helmet cameras showed that one had tried to save the second just before they landed.

There has been no evidence that Schumacher took any unnecessary risk that led to his crash.

Still, accident experts question if the cameras, and the quest for dramatic footage, have any impact on the safety of wearers already pushing themselves to extremes.

"It's a possibility that the psychology of such people can induce them to take even more risks," said Daniel Menna, spokesman for the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention.

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