The link between the two tragedies is the thirty-five-year-old mountain guide Dalibor Urban from České Budějovice. Along with him, his friend Jan Linhart from Český Krumlov is also indicted.
According to the investigators, both violated a number of rules for movement in the mountains, including the lack of professional permits. The consequence was the loss of two human lives. The men are now charged with negligent homicide. Urban faces up to six years in prison, Linhart up to three years.
According to criminologists, Urban was the main organizer. He pleaded guilty in court today in the first case of the Wildfrauensteig via ferrata from July 2019. At that time, he prepared the trip for two dozen interested parties. According to the indictment, however, he did not go on the via ferrata with the clients and sent Linhart there for him.
According to the file, Urban already knew several days in advance that he would not be able to participate in the expedition due to illness. “He took over the limit number of clients. He fundamentally violated the professional rules and recommendations of the association of mountain guides. There should have been a maximum of six people. He had a trade license, but he could not transfer responsibility to another person,” the indictment stated, among other things.
However, Linhart, who was driving instead of Urban at the time, did not have the professional qualifications of a mountain guide and probably did not have the necessary experience to lead such a large number of people in difficult mountain terrain.
According to the indictment, Linhart failed to correctly evaluate the weather and warnings about the possible occurrence of thunderstorms, which was pointed out to him by clients.
Probably as a result of these errors, one member of the group, a twenty-four-year-old woman, slipped during a dangerous descent on a wet surface and suffered fatal injuries after a steep fall.
The investigators then discovered that in order to lead such an organized tour, however, it is necessary to have the authorization of an international mountain guide, which none of the defendants had.
After the first tragedy, Urban continued in business
Nevertheless, even after this tragedy, Urban continued his business and continued to offer tours. And this despite the fact that the association of mountain guides took away his guide qualification.
In August 2020, he organized another expedition. This time to another secured Drachenwand route. Here, with his negligence, according to the indictment, he caused the death of another, this time a twenty-five-year-old woman.
According to investigators, Urban led a group of about fifteen people, including beginners, on a difficult via ferrata. On the difficulty scale from A to E, it is C. A twenty-five-year-old woman also set out on the route, for whom, according to reports, it was her first via ferrata. “She didn’t have the proper equipment. The defendant thus failed to fulfill his role as a professional guide when he did not exclude her from the event,” said the police.
From the very beginning, the woman on the via ferrata was unable to progress without the help of others from the expedition. At the top, according to the investigators, she showed signs of mental and physical exhaustion, to which the guide did not react in any way.
Urban stated in court that he did not observe such significant exhaustion on this woman. “It made everyone tired. I took pictures of her upstairs, she was smiling and spreading her arms. We then had about half an hour’s rest,” said the defendant.
She slipped and fell, the defendant recalls the client’s death
In court, Urban described in detail what happened that day. The young woman was able to climb to the top with his help. “The way back was mainly through the forest and she slipped and fell at one point, it was a fall of about fifty meters,” he recalled with tears in his eyes. He did not see the fall directly.
He immediately ran down the slope to the woman and, according to his words, tried to give her first aid. According to him, the rescuers then arrived in about half an hour.
During the investigation, it became clear that in both cases Urban deliberately concealed from the Austrian police authorities that he was the organizer of these paid expeditions. He claimed it was a “tourist event”.
He declared in court that he was selling the apartment in order to have at least some funds to settle with the survivors. The trial will probably continue on December 1, including the questioning of witnesses.