Sunday 22 October 2017

Swimmer (15) in a coma with 'serious spinal injuries' after being hit by bus at European Games

The sun is pictured through a flag promoting the 2015 European Games at Bilgah Beach of the Caspian sea in Baku
The sun is pictured through a flag promoting the 2015 European Games at Bilgah Beach of the Caspian sea in Baku

The Austrian synchronized swimmer seriously injured after being struck by a bus in the athletes' village at the European Games in Baku is in a medically-induced coma with "serious spinal injuries", according to a team official.

Fifteen-year-old Vanessa Sahinovic was flown back to the Austrian capital Vienna on Thursday night along with her team-mate Luna Pajer, who suffered an elbow injury.

Sahinovic's injuries from Thursday's accident are not said to be life-threatening but she suffered multiple broken bones in the incident and, according to the Austrian team, doctors say it will take a number of weeks before any possible implications of her injuries are known.

Sahinovic, Pajer and a third athlete, Verena Breit, were walking on a pavement in the athletes' village early on Thursday morning when they were hit by the bus.

Pajer is expected to be released from hospital within the next two days while Breit was able to remain with the rest of the team in Baku.

Sahinovic underwent a 10-hour operation in the Austrian capital and will need many more, according to Austrian team press officer Wolfgang Eichler.

Eichler said: "It is still difficult to tell the impact of the injury because doctors need a week to be really precise. Her life is not in danger but her spine has been severely damaged.

"She is in a coma but that is a normal procedure to get her stable. She was flown home with no complications and now all the operations are step by step."

Eichler added that doctors could not rule out the possibility of some degree of paralysis, saying: "Regarding whether she will have any long-term impact, the doctors are saying it is possible but for the moment they need another week to be sure about her condition."

Fellow Austrian synchronized swimmers, sisters Anna-Maria and Eirini-Marina Alexandri, competed in the preliminary round of the free duet at the Baku Aquatics Centre on Friday.

In front of a supportive crowd, the pair ranked in fourth place and Eichler said they had insisted on competing despite the tragedy.

Eichler said: "They were swimming for Vanessa - it was their wish and the doctors from our team were saying it was good for them in order to cope with the situation.

"It is tragic and for us it is a really sad situation. It is our focus to treat them (the athletes in Baku) in the best way and get them the best assistance."

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