Father-of-two William Choi lost his skies and tumbled down a steep slope

William Choi was a father of two and tumbled down steep hills.

An inquest was held into the deaths of top-ranking cancer surgeon and ski instructor, who were under the influence cannabis. He fell from 750ft during a holiday with his family.

Urology consultant William Choi, 48, was described as an intermediate skier – a good level 2 or at the beginning of level 3 – when visitors at the popular French alpine resort of La Plagne were assessed on their skill on the morning of March 21, 2016. 

The father-of-2 Mr Choi enjoyed lunch with his sons Alex, Xavier and Abbey on day one of a week-long ski trip.

But before hitting the slopes, Mr Choi asked to move into a higher group, headed by Philippe Drigo, so he could ski faster, despite having an ‘inadequate introduction to off-piste skiing’.

He had to supervise eight people and said that Mr Choi had “underestimated” his ability. Therefore, he should be a part of the ‘level threes. 

Mr Choi went Off-piste in his group The skier lost his grip and fell down the steep slope. He also hit his head against a boulder, which knocked out his helmet as he raced to the bottom. 

The William Harvey Hospital, Ashford, Kent’s urologist, made desperate efforts to bring the doctor back, but he passed away shortly afterwards after suffering traumatic spinal injuries and neck pain.

Drigo initially denied that he had taken drugs or alcohol. But, French police later discovered that he was under the effects of cannabis. This may have affected Drigo’s judgement. A Maidstone inquest, Kent was conducted. 

Involuntary Manslaughter was the charge that Drigo received from French prosecutors. Sonia Hayes, assistant coroner, agreed with Mr Choi’s cause of death as gross negligence. However, it wasn’t clear what punishment Drigo would have faced.

Philippe Drigo, who was under the influence of cannabis, agreed to move urology consultant William Choi to an advanced level group at the popular resort of La Plagne (pictured)

Philippe Drigo who had been under the effects of cannabis agreed to relocate William Choi (pictured), a consultant in urology, to an advanced-level group at La Plagne. 

Afternoon, Mr Choi led seven other climbers up the Losset corridor until they reached the summit of the 35-degree slope. Eyewitnesses reported that Drigo had instructed Mr Choi to ‘listen and follow his instructions’

He began to travel down the corridor quickly, but then his skis caught on an outcrop and he started falling.

The rock that resembled a banana hit his head, causing him to drop to the ground. At the bottom, his fall had been more than 775ft.

The fatal fall down the slope by the victim was captured on video and later turned over to police as part of an investigation.

An autopsy revealed that Mr Choi had suffered neck and spine injuries, also known as craniocervical or thoracic trauma.

Drigo denied using drugs and alcohol when French police interrogated him. However, he was later found to have been under the influence cannabis. This could have affected his judgment according to the inquest.

In a police interview, he stated that William had fallen and that it was impossible to prevent his fall.

The snow proved to be hard and icy, despite Drigo’s claim that it was “powdery”.

Later, police were alerted to the difficulties these conditions present by the patrols who arrived at the resort to aid Mr Choi.

According to the inquest, although it was not considered extremely dangerous, the corridor should be reserved for skiers who are experienced.

Helen Hughes and Roger Hughes were the only couple to quit Mr Choi’s group because it felt too extreme for them.

Mrs Hughes stated that she believed the accident could’ve been prevented if the instructor of ski had properly assessed the ability.

Hughes said that Phillip never inquired if they were okay and if they were willing to continue. So I left the group, and decided that the location he wanted us to go was too risky.

Also, the inquest was informed about how poor weather and low cloud conditions affected skiers’ ability to evaluate the environment.

Mr Choi was with a group being led by an instructor in La Plagne in the French Alps

He was with a group of instructors in La Plagne, France Alps.

According to a toxicology report, Mr Choi had no alcohol or drugs in his system which could have affected his judgement or senses. His equipment was also clean.

Ms Hayes, assistant coroner, said that Mr Choi was not properly introduced to off-piste ski.

She concluded, “I’m satisfied that it wouldn’t suffice to simply say it was an accident,”

“We heard Mrs Hughes tell us that the accident could have been avoided.

“It is my belief that the French Public Prosecutor has given expert testimony and they have brought a case for manslaughter.”

According to the French courts, Mr Choi died from gross negligence. She also agreed. Drigo was not given an exact sentence.

Choi, a respected physician and lead urology specialist for kidney cancer at East Kent Hospitals Trust was an outstanding example of his professionalism.

He served as vice-chairman of the Renal Cancer Service, and was also the chairman for Laparoscopic Urological surgery for the Kent Cancer Network.

His appointment as consultant at William Harvey Hospital Ashford was followed by laparoscopic renal surgeries in East Kent.

Twelve years ago, he was devastated when his wife Debbie died from breast cancer.

Following his passing, Mr Choi’s companion Abbey described him to be’such an adorable man who would help anybody’.

She spoke out about the tragedy by saying that Bill was an experienced skier who always wore helmets and took no risks.

“We were all in separate groups, and just now I got a call from the hotel asking me to come back to the hotel as Bill was having a fall.

“His death was my first thought. This is especially devastating for Debbie, the mother of Debbie’s boys.