KLOSTERS, Switzerland — Prince Charles narrowly escaped injury when an avalanche hit his skiing party on a Swiss mountain today, but the snowslide killed one of his friends and injured another.
Buckingham Palace identified the dead man as Maj. Hugh Lindsay, a former equerry, or aide, to the Prince of Wales' mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and a close friend of the prince. A woman in the party, Patricia Palmer-Tomkinson, suffered leg injuries, the palace said.
Charles was not injured, the palace reported. But witnesses said the prince looked distraught, and one said he was weeping and shaking as a Red Cross helicopter arrived to pick him up.
Charles' wife, Diana, and the Duchess of York, his pregnant sister-in-law, were not on the slopes at the time but safe in a chalet, the palace said. The royal party arrived in Switzerland for a private vacation on Tuesday.
100 Feet Above Group
Swiss authorities said the snowslide on Mt. Gotschnagrat near Klosters began about 100 feet above a group of six skiers that included Prince Charles. The prince and three other people, including Palmer-Tomkinson's husband, Charles, a Swiss guide and a Swiss policeman, were unharmed.
The palace said the party was skiing off the main ski run and was stationary when the avalanche began at 2:45 p.m.
"All members of the party were in a position to take avoiding action with the exception of Maj. Lindsay and Mrs. Palmer-Tomkinson, who were both caught in the avalanche," it said.
Lindsay, 34, was a serving army major and a friend of Charles and Diana. He was married to a Buckingham Palace press secretary who is expecting a baby, the palace said.
Charles Aided Rescue
Peter Balsiger, editor-in-chief of the Zurich-based newspaper Blick, was quoted as saying he was told Charles, 39, helped dig one person out of the snow.
Balsiger told reporters that Prince Charles "saw all that took place. He stopped and made his way back up the slope to help. . . . I understand he actually helped dig out somebody who was buried under the snow."
A French photographer told BBC radio he saw Charles being comforted by someone as a helicopter took off with a stretcher.
The queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were informed of the incident while viewing a tennis exhibition in London and took the news calmly, the palace said.
They carried on with the engagement after learning that none of the royal family had been hurt.
BBC TV news said the queen was understood to have telephoned the family at the chalet where they gathered after the tragedy.
The 1988 Good Ski Guide describes the Wang Run on the Gotschnagrat, where the accident occurred, as "a slope of awesome steepness, dropping about 500 (yards)" that "mercifully is rarely open." Prince Charles skied the area many times during his bachelor days and is credited with giving Klosters its exclusive tag.
Charles, Diana and the Duchess of York, who is married to Charles' younger brother, Prince Andrew, posed for photographers at Klosters on Wednesday. The 28-year-old duchess, the former Sarah Ferguson, is expecting her first baby in August and has been criticized by the British press for not giving up skiing temporarily because of the potential danger.
It was the worst sporting accident to involve the royal family since Prince William of Gloucester, a cousin of the queen, was killed when his sports plane crashed during an air race in 1972.
Apart from the normal dangers of the demanding Gotschnagrat runs, conditions had been made more hazardous by heavy snowfalls during the last two days and warmer temperatures.