The lower portion of the course had been used for a men's slalom race that day, and workmen were busy moving the finish line 60 meters up the slope in preparation for men's downhill training and races, which would require a longer runout. The workmen had removed the finish banner and loosened the cable that held it aloft. The cable, still attached to support poles at both ends, hung only about three feet above the snow.
"[Don Alfonso] asked me twice where the finish was as we went down," said Sailer. "Once, about 300 meters up from the finish he asked me, and then 100 meters up he asked yet again. I told him, 'There's a man down there working, and you must be careful, because I think he's lowering the cable. We better go slow.' "
Don Alfonso and the Sailers sideslipped down the hill. "As I came within 30 meters of the finish I saw the cable was very low to the ground," said Sailer. "I looked up to my right to see if somebody else was coming down and should be warned. I didn't think of the duke, and then I heard the hissing sound of skis moving pretty fast behind me, and I turned and saw he was going down in a straight schuss." Sailer was too shocked to yell. The duke apparently thought the final yards of the course were clear. He sped into the cable, which slashed into his skull and neck and killed him instantly.
No charges are expected to be brought against the organizers of the championships. Don Alfonso, who was once described by a Spanish writer on royalty as "a man for whom almost everything turned out wrong"—among other tragedies, the duke's older son was killed in a 1984 accident when an auto the duke was driving collided with a truck—was flown home for burial in a Spanish Air Force 707 dispatched by his cousin the king.