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Race tragedy: Ski community in mourning after crash

THE skiing community is in mourning after Echuca water-skier Jai Welch died after falling on the final bend of the Robinvale/Euston 80km Classic ski race on Saturday.

Mr Welch, aged in his 30s, was tandem skiing behind Stalker, driven by Echuca’s Brad Groves, when he fell during the event’s qualifying heat, just 400 metres from the finish line.

Ambulance Victoria spokesman John Mullen said Mr Welch went into cardiac arrest after sustaining head and suspected spinal injuries in the accident. Mr Mullen said CPR was being performed on Mr Welch when paramedics arrived minutes later to continue administering first aid.

Ski Racing Australia chief executive Grant Cummin said the driver, observer and second skier all rendered assistance at the scene.

Mr Cummin said there were some members standing on the bank near where Mr Welch was treated, but the point was not a heavily crowded part of the river.

Mr Welch was transported to Mildura Base Hospital in a critical condition and Mr Mullen said an air ambulance was later called to transport Mr Welch to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

He said a doctor and nurse were transported from the airport to the hospital to help stabilise Mr Welch, but information showed he did not board the aircraft.

Mr Welch is survived by his wife, Bec, and daughter, Harper.

Mr Cummin said that visually, he noticed something was wrong from where he sat at race control and the race was immediately “red flagged”.

He said the driver of the boat triggered an emergency switch via the race control system and ambulances were called.

Yesterday, the board of Ski Racing Australia expressed its “deep sympathy to the family and friends” of Mr Welch.

“Competitors were keen to continue racing today. We’re a big family and all saddened by this,” it said.

Mr Cummin said Ski Racing Australia would offer counselling for those affected by the tragedy.

Mr Welch’s father Leo campaigns a SuperClass boat and his brother Zac is a world class skier.

Ski Racing Australia was expected to begin its review into the weekend incident last night.

Separate police investigations will take place and police confirmed the boat’s crew were assisting police with their inquiries.

As the Murray River falls under New South Wales jurisdiction, the state’s police will handle the crash investigation.

Victoria Police will prepare a report for the State Coroner.

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