Update: Parents of Mimi Watts will use her death as a force for good after coroner concludes Lavenham snowboarder died in tragic accident
12:09 02 June 2014
Grieving parents have vowed to use their daughter’s death as a force for good after a coroner concluded she died in a tragic accident.
Emily “Mimi” Watts, from Lavenham, lost her life while snowboarding on the slopes of the Chamonix Valley in France in December 2012.
An inquest held this morning heard how the 26-year-old became trapped after falling headfirst into fresh snow, with one local police officer reporting he had never seen such an accident in 25 years covering the mountains.
Speaking after the hearing in Bury St Edmunds, Miss Watts’ mother, Nicky McAllister, said: “She was fun loving, greatly creative, looked always on the bright side of things.
“She went all over the world, she loved to travel, she was really good fun. She found her way round the world on a shoestring - she was inspirational.”
Her father Dominic Watts said she was “hugely popular” during her time at St Benedict’s Catholic School in Bury, adding: “She was a free spirit, she created her own platform. She wasn’t influenced by other people.”
The artistic Miss Watts was hoping to establish the Good Story clothing label to make clothes for snowboarders, and her family has taken that name and set up a charity dedicated to helping young creatives realise their dreams.
The Good Story charity has already raised more than £50,000 and helped 40 young entrepreneurs through a combination of loans, grants and mentoring. It is now hoping to employ its current staff member full-time to take the charity to the next level.
Mrs McAllister said: “When Mimi was setting up her clothing business, she didn’t want to take our advice because we’re parents and we’re old.
“We’re trying to be that person, that someone like Mimi can say ‘what do I do now?’”
Her stepfather, Malcolm McAllister, added: “We’re thrilled with the progress of the charity so far. We hope we can build from a very good, excellent start to making it a proper, full-time role for somebody to keep funds coming.”
At around 4pm on December 8, Miss Watts was snowboarding alone when she fell headfirst into deep, fresh snow on the edge of the piste. The upper layer of snow then collapsed onto Miss Watts, burying her beneath about 70cm of snow.
The report from French police said the consistency of the fresh snow was like sand and there was no way Miss Watts would have been able to push herself out.
Two skiers on the slope spotted Miss Watts’ snowboard sticking out of the ground and tried to pull her out, but were unable to get any purchase on the ground.
She was eventually freed by a mountain rescue team after being trapped for up to 45 minutes but died in hospital five days later.
Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean told yesterday’s inquest that Miss Watts was a capable snowboarder and there was no suggestion she had done anything reckless.
He recorded a verdict of severe anoxic encephalopathy - a term for brain damage - and a cardiac arrest due to a lack of oxygen, caused by the fall into the snow.
Dr Dean said: “We have emails that she sent prior to the tragedy that show clearly she was having a very enjoyable time there.
“This seems to essentially have been a tragic accident linked to deep and very soft snow.”