British sailor died after collapsing on ski lift and falling 30ft in French Alps

·4-min read
Skiers ride a chairlift on February 2, 2016 in the French ski resort of Meribel in the 3 Valleys ski area, the world's largest ski area, in central French Alps. 
French ski resorts prepare for the French winter school holidays' rush that will start on February 6. / AFP / PHILIPPE DESMAZES        (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeffery Martin died after falling from a ski lift at the Meribel resort in the French Alps. (AFP via Getty Images)

An internationally renowned British sailor died after collapsing and falling from a ski lift during a family holiday in the French Alps, an inquest has heard.

Jeffery Martin, 65, suffered a medical episode on the moving ski lift and fell 10 metres (32.8ft) at the Meribel ski resort in January 2019.

The resort’s medical staff attended to Mr Martin until the emergency services arrived, Cornwall Coroner’s Court heard.

But his condition deteriorated and he was declared dead a short time later.

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A post-mortem examination carried out in France established that Mr Martin, from Falmouth, had either suffered a cardiac arrest or a stroke.

He had a history of disease of the arteries and high blood pressure.

The French authorities found that Mr Martin was sat across two seats of the six-person ski lift when the incident happened, and he slipped under the safety rail, the inquest heard.

Family hand out of sailor Jeff Martin who died after falling from ski lift in France. See SWNS story SWPLSKI; Jeff Martin, 64, suffered a suspected heart attack before falling 30ft from a ski lift after falling ill while holidaying in Meribel, France in January last year. He was the longest serving World Sailing International judge and had been entered into a hall of fame in recognition of his achievements.
British sailor Jeffery Martin died after falling from a ski lift in the French Alps. (SWNS)

Dr Helen Burns, a retired GP and family friend, was with Mr Martin on the ski lift when he fell ill.

“We were travelling up, and he started to make some very funny noises and the best I can describe it was a snuffling sort of sound,” she told the court.

“We had been talking and suddenly there was this strange noise and I turned to look at Jeff and at that point he went rigid.

“His legs shot forward and sideways so that his skis came off the bar and he went rigid and threw himself back.

“His skis skidded off the footrest and he slid diagonally under the bar. I got my hand to his shoulder and his ski suit just slipped straight out of my hand.”

She added: “I started screaming at the people in the lift station in my very bad French that Jeff had fallen.

“They assured me that they already knew that, and the rescue team were already on their way down.”

Andrew Cox, senior coroner for Cornwall, said: “It stands to reason in my mind that if he had that metal strut between his legs, he would not have been able to slip under the metal bar unless the bar had been lifted.

“There is no suggestion of that, so the application of logic is that he must have been to the side of the metal strut.”

Mr Martin’s wife, Angela, who was at the inquest, said her husband was “so happy” during the holiday and had not been unwell.

A man surfs off of marked ski slopes despite of an avalanch risk, on February 2, 2016 in the French ski resort of Meribel in the 3 Valleys ski area, the world's largest ski area, in central French Alps. 
French ski resorts prepare for the French winter school holidays' rush that will start on February 6. / AFP / PHILIPPE DESMAZES        (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeffery Martin was on a family skiing holiday to Meribel, France, when he died. (AFP via Getty Images)

“The one thing I still have a problem with is that you can fall from a chair lift – whether conscious or unconscious – and that all responsibility is loaded on the person who gets on that ski lift,” she said.

“He didn’t choose to be ill, and he didn’t choose to fall. Privately or publicly owned machines should be made, so that, conscious or unconscious, you are kept safe.”

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Mr Cox said Mr Martin had died from natural causes either from a cardiac or neurological episode.

“It seems to me that it was more likely or not that he was sat between two seats and having suffered that episode… no longer had control of his limbs and he went rigid, his skis slipped off the T-bar and he then has slipped under the bar and fallen 30ft to the ground beneath,” he said.

Mr Martin was an accomplished sailor and executive secretary of the International Laser Class Association for 40 years.

He was the longest-serving world sailing international judge, an international race officer and measurer, and a former chairman of the World Sailing Classes Committee.

In 2012, Mr Martin also led one of the race management teams at the London Olympic Games.

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