British sailor Jeffery Martin died after falling from ski-lift in Meribel, inquest hears

September 20, 2021

A world-renowned British sailor died after falling nearly 33ft (10m) from a moving ski-lift while on holiday with his family, an inquest has heard.

Jeffery Martin was in Meribel, France, in January 2019 when he suffered a medical emergency and fell out of the chair-lift.

The 65-year-old was treated by the resort's medical staff until emergency services arrived but deteriorated and died a short while later.

He suffered a cardiac arrest or a stroke, according to a post-mortem.

Family friend and retried GP Helen Burns was with Mr Martin at the time.

"We were travelling up, and he started to make some very funny noises and the best I can describe it was snuffling sort of sound," she told Cornwall Coroner's 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."

She said 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," Dr Burns said.

"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."

The inquest heard French authorities found Mr Martin was sat across two seats of the six-person ski lift and had slipped under the safety rail.

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, said her husband was "so happy" during the holiday and had not been unwell.

However, he had a history of disease of the arteries and high blood pressure.

"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."

Mr Martin was an accomplished sailor from Falmouth in Cornwall.

He was also an executive secretary of the International Laser Class Association for 40 years, the longest-serving world sailing international judge, and former chairman of the World Sailing Classes Committee.

The coroner concluded that Mr Martin had died from natural causes, either from a cardiac or neurological episode.

He said: "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".

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