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Schumacher ski crash investigators: Slope and skis probably not to blame

Guillaume Bonnet / AFP - Getty Images, file

The blood of German Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher at the off-piste location in the French ski resort of Meribel, taken from a video in December.

ALBERTVILLE, France - Two minutes of footage from a camera on Michael Schumacher's helmet showed the auto-racing great was skiing off a groomed trail when he lost his balance and crashed, leaving him with critical head injuries, investigators said Wednesday. 

The investigators said they have ruled out problems with his skis, trail conditions and signage in the accident. Although they would not estimate Schumacher's speed, they said it was not considered a significant factor in the Dec. 29 crash at the Meribel resort in the French Alps.

"His pace was completely normal for a skilled skier," said Lt. Col. Benoit Vinneman. 

Footage from Schumacher's helmet camera shows he was skiing some 10 yards off the groomed trail when he fell and hit his head, prosecutor Patrick Quincy told a news conference in Albertville.

Schumacher suffered a severe brain injury in the fall. He was placed in a medically-induced coma, underwent two operations, and is now in a stable but serious condition. The investigation is standard procedure after any skiing or climbing accident.

Quincy said Schumacher was "a very good skier" who had ventured off-piste at the intersection of a beginner and an intermediate course.

Local police chief Stephane Bozon said Schumacher's skis were rented and almost brand new.

Experts are also examining Schumacher's helmet, which was no longer "in one piece" according to one investigator. Quincy said the investigation will continue, possibly for weeks.

"The footage is extremely clear and gives us a good deal of information, or at least confirms the information we already had," Quincy said. “We will use the video to create a reconstruction."

He added that experts had also spoken to emergency service personnel and other witnesses as part of the investigation.

Quincy said he could not answer whether Schumacher was careless. The helmet-camera footage would need to be analysed "image by image" to provide further details, he said.

Schumi, as his fans affectionately call him, is a seven-time Formula One champion and considered one of the sport's all-time greats. The German racer was famously aggressive on the track and no less intense in retirement, remaining an avid skier, skydiver and horseback rider.

On Tuesday, Schumacher's wife, Corinna, asked the media in a written statement to leave the hospital, where journalists had crowded for days awaiting news on the medical condition: "It is important to me that you unburden the doctors and the hospital."

In Schumacher's hometown of Kerpen, die-hard fans have been watching developments closely.

Dozens of red caps -- a trademark for the German Formula One champ -- with messages from fans have been tied to the fence of the local Michael Schumacher kart race track. Additional caps are presently on their way from the North America fan club, Viehmann told NBC News.

Alexander Smith reported from London, and Andy Eckardt from Mainz, Germany.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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