A young holidaymaker who died from a head injury after being hit by a skier refused to seek medical help because of the costs involved, an inquest has heard.
Kayleigh Harris, 23, was working at a hotel in the resort of Les Menuires for the company Skibound in 2016 when a skier collided with her while she was out snowboarding.
Miss Harris, from Taunton in Somerset, had fallen and was hit seconds later as she lay on the ground.
The skier was never traced, although Miss Harris told her friends that when he apologized to her, he sounded like he had a Dutch or Belgian accent.
The impact shattered part of her helmet, but Miss Harris was left with just a small bump on her head and refused to go to a doctor to be checked out.
An inquest in Taunton on Monday heard that the hotel she worked at, the Hotel Skilt, was next to a doctor’s surgery, but Miss Harris feared rising costs if she sought medical attention.
Medical bills for minor injuries can quickly exceed £600, her colleagues said, which was about what they were paid each month.
There was also no readily available guidance from their employer, Skibound, on what to do in the event of a head injury.
The court heard that on the evening of March 30, Miss Harris could babysit a colleague and first began complaining to the hotel’s head chef Seann Peters about a headache around midnight.
Peters said of Miss Harris immediately after the accident: “She was quite jovial and proud of her little bump, joking with the skier like ‘what a**k, I can’t believe he just went skiing’.”
He added that Miss Harris had barely eaten dinner and had refused to attend a staff evening, but that this behavior was quite normal for her.
Mr Peters, who had the room next to his in the hotel basement, found her drowsy on the sofa in his small room and lifted her onto a mattress on the floor.
Staff at the hotel feared she had a concussion, but chose to monitor her overnight rather than call an ambulance.
In a statement, Peters described Miss Harris as a “Peter Pan character”, adding: “She would 100% hold on to her inner child, she loved anything pink or sparkly.”
But he added that despite being full of energy, the victim tired easily and was one of the deepest sleepers I have ever encountered.
“Kayleigh loved her sleep and would sleep for days if she could,” Peters said.
The court heard that various staff were unsure whether the fact that Miss Harris was only partially responsive to their attempts to wake her was due to a head injury or that she was fast asleep.
Peters said: “If you tried to wake her, she would just mumble and say she wanted to go back to sleep.”
An ambulance was called at around 8am on March 31 when Miss Harris became unresponsive to the people checking on her and when paramedics arrived she was in a deep coma.
She was not taken to hospital in Grenoble until almost midday because she went into cardiac arrest when she was taken to the ambulance and had to be resuscitated on the pavement.
Miss Harris’ life support was turned off on the evening of April 1 to allow her family time to reach her and they made the decision to donate her organs.
The court heard that since Miss Harris’ death, Skibound has updated its head injury policy and it is now included in the information pack given to all seasonal workers.
Miss Harris’ mother Suzanne Harris expressed her frustration at the delay in seeking medical help for her daughter, and the lack of a clear head injury policy from Skibound.
She said: “I don’t want to blame anyone, not even the skier, it was an accident.
“They shouldn’t be held accountable or punished, but people should just be aware (of head injuries).”
Coroner Samantha Marsh listed the cause of death as head injury, and said Miss Harris’ colleagues had “misinterpreted” symptoms of head trauma as just her normal behaviour.
Marsh said: “I am satisfied (Miss Harris) was encouraged to seek medical attention by friends and colleagues at the hotel and she did not take the opportunity to do so.
“I am satisfied that one of the reasons she may not have done so was the prohibitive cost.”
The coroner said she had no evidence to suggest Miss Harris would have survived if medical help had been sought earlier, but said “at least she would have had a chance”.