On the 5th of January 2006 the court at Digne said that the lack of an autopsie on the victim mean that the exact cause of death was unknown so that a link between his death and the catalogue of errors in the search and rescue operation could not be made. The six defendents of Transmontagne were acquitted. The prosecutor and the family of Joël Proal appealed and a new trial took place in Aix appeal court on the 21st of January 2008.
The court went over the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Proal, a piste patroller working on avalanche control work for the resort of Pra Loup: lack of training in search and rescue, errors in using avalanche beacons, a faulty defibrillator, ignoring obvious clues such as the victim’s ski pole visible on the surface and the final discovery of his body beneath a piste basher that had come to the scene. The prosecutor has asked for suspended prison sentences against the piste patroller and mayor of Pra Loup and a fine for Transmontagne (currently in liquidation). The Mayor defended himself saying that his job was to provide the resources for search and rescue but their organization was the responsibility of Transmontagne. [note: the Loi de la Montagne states that the organization of rescue within a ski domain is the ultimate responsibility of the mayor and the director of piste services]. Judgement will be given later.
In a further appeal in this long running case the head of rescue operations has been sentenced to 3 months in prison by the appeal court in Aix en Provence. The sentence was suspended. Transmontagne, now bankrupt, was also found liable.