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Dutch Prince Friso buried by avalanche, badly hurt (updated)

A statement from the Dutch government said the prince's condition was stable, but his life remains at risk.

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Prince Johan Friso, son of Queen Beatrix, smiles during his wedding in the Oude Kerk in Delft in this April 24, 2004 file photo. Dutch Prince Johan Friso was in critical but stable condition at an intensive care unit in an Innsbruck hospital after being buried by an avalanche in Austria, the Dutch government said on February 17.

Michael Kooren/Reuters

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An avalanche buried and seriously injured the second son of Dutch Queen Beatrix while he skied off the trail Friday in the westernmost corner of Austria and he was rushed to the intensive care unit of an Innsbruck hospital, officials said.

It was unclear how critical the condition of Prince Friso was. A Dutch government statement said he was stable but "his life remains at risk." Stefan Jochum, a spokesman for the Lech ski area where the accident occurred, said Friso's condition was serious but his life was no longer in danger.

Jochum said the accident happened Friday afternoon as the prince and other skiers were on slopes away from the marked Lech ski runs and laden with snow after weeks of record falls.

"A snow slide came down and the prince was buried as the only member of the group" said Jochum in a telephone interview. A rescue helicopter was on the scene within minutes and after Friso was located, he was given emergency aid on the scene and flown to the hospital, Jochum said.

He could not confirm a news report that the prince had been buried for 15 minutes before he was found and said he had no information on the nature of his injuries.

Friso, 43, was in Lech along with other members of the royal family. Friso, the second of Beatrix's three sons, gave up any claim to the Dutch throne in order to marry Dutch commoner Mabel Wisse Smit, in 2004. The pair have two daughters, Emma and Joanna. He most recently worked as financial director at Urenco, the European uranium-enrichment consortium.

After the pair announced their intention to marry in 2003, Dutch media revealed that Wisse Smit's previous friendships included contacts while she was in college with a well-known figure in the Dutch underworld, a drug dealer who was later slain.

The couple publicly acknowledged having been "naive and incomplete" during her vetting process before joining the royal family. Then-Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende signaled he could not recommend the marriage to parliament for approval.

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They married anyway, a decision that meant Friso's removal from the line of succession.

The couple are still part of Beatrix's family and attend important royal functions. Mabel has been granted the title "Princess Mabel" and Friso has an array of noble titles, including "Prince of Oranje-Nassau" — but not "Prince of the Netherlands."

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