A LEADING light in the sailing world suffered a medical episode whilst on a ski lift in France and fell 30 feet to the ground.

Jeffery Charles Martin, commonly known as Jeff, aged 65, from Falmouth died whilst on a family skiing holiday in the French Alps on January 11, 2019.

At an inquest into his death on Monday, senior coroner for Cornwall Andrew Cox apologised to the family for the length of time it had taken to hold the inquest following an investigation by the French authorities.

Family friend Dr Helen Gleadowe told the inquest that she was with Mr Martin on the ski lift when, shortly after getting on, she heard him making strange noises.

"We were travelling up when he started to make some very funny noises," she told the inquest. "A snuffling sort of sound.

"We had been talking when he suddenly started making strange noises. I turned to look at Jeff and at that point he went rigid.

"His foot shot forward and sideways and his skis came off of the foot bar. He went rigid he threw himself quick back and his skies skidded off the foot rest and he slid diagonally under the bar."

She added under questioning from the coroner.

"I got hold of his shoulder nearest to me but his ski suit just slipped straight out of my hand."

Mr Martin fell 30 feet or ten metres to the ground onto the ski slope below, but Dr Gleadowe said it would appear he fell onto soft virgin snow.

"First of all I started to scream for help in my very bad French saying someone had fallen, but they very kindly pointed out that they already knew that and pointed out the team in its way," she said.

She skied back down to the site to where Mr Martin had fallen but the people at the scene wouldn't let her near. Despite surviving the fall and being treated by at least two doctors he died on the slope.

An investigation by the French authorities found evidence of a bleed on the brain but could not ascertain whether this happened prior to the fall or after the fall.

The inquest heard that Mr Martin had suffered medical problems in the past including high blood pressure and heart problems, including being fitted with a stent, but for the past ten years he hadn't really had any medical problems.

However a post mortem by the French authorities found that his heart was enlarged at the time of his death.

Mr Martin's widow Angela told the inquest that they'd had a lovely week before his death.

"He was so happy that week," she said. "We had had the most amazing week. There was no evidence he was poorly, nothing."

She added: "The only thing I have a problem with is that one is still allowed to fall from a chair lift whether you are concious or unconscious.

"All that responsibility is loaded onto the person who gets on that ski lift.

"He didn't choose to be ill, he didn't choose to fall. I just think that publicly or privately owned machines should be made so that you, concious or unconscious, be kept safe."

Recording a verdict of death by natural causes Mr Cox said it was impossible to say whether Mr Martin's death had been caused by a heart attack or stroke. It was unlikely he would have been killed by falling onto soft snow despite the height.

Mr Martin was the executive secretary of the International Laser Class Association for 40 years, the longest serving world sailing international judge, an international race officer and measurer, and former chairman of the World Sailing Classes Committee.

He was awarded a gold medal for his services to world sailing and entered into the 'Hall of Fame' for services to the International Laser Class Association, an award made by the sailors themselves.

In 2012 Mr Martin led one of the race management teams at the London Olympic Games.