National Geographic Channel mistakenly reports death of Dutch prince

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (BNO NEWS) -- National Geographic Channel on Sunday erroneously aired an announcement to express its condolences over the supposed death of Dutch Prince Johan Friso, who remains in a coma after being critically injured in an avalanche in western Austria.

The Dutch version of the channel, which features documentaries about topics such as nature, science, culture, and history, interrupted its regular programming at around 8 a.m. local time on Sunday after which an announcement appeared. "National Geographic Channel expresses its condolences to the royal family and the Dutch public over the death of His Highness Prince Friso," it said.

While National Geographic Channel does not report news, hundreds of viewers took to social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook to express their condolences or to seek confirmation. "Just saw on National Geographic that Prince Friso, unfortunately, has died," one Twitter user wrote.

A spokesman for the Netherlands Government Information Service (RVD) initially refused to comment and instead said any significant changes in the prince's health would be announced through them, sparking further rumors that an announcement could be imminent. The RVD spokesman soon thereafter denied Friso had died.

Later on Sunday, National Geographic Channel apologized for the announcement and said it was likely broadcast as a result of a technical fault. "We take this misstep extremely seriously and we are carefully investigating what exactly went wrong," the channel said in a statement. "Such an incident can never occur again in the future. We strongly regret this incident."

Friso, 43, was skiing in the Austrian town of Lech on February 17 when he was hit by an avalanche and buried under the snow for about 25 minutes before being rescued and resuscitated at the scene. Doctors said the oxygen deprivation caused extensive damage to his brain, leaving him in a coma which he may never come out.

The prince is currently being cared for at Wellington Hospital in London, the largest independent hospital in the United Kingdom. Friso is the second son of Queen Beatrix but is not in line for the throne since marrying Princess Mabel in 2004 without permission from the Dutch government.

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