LA LACHERE, FRANCE, FEB. 22 -- An Olympic speed skier from Switzerland was killed today when he crashed into a vehicle used to groom the snow. Nicolas Bochatay, 27, was skiing on a public slope near the speed skiing course with teammate Pierre Yves-Jorand as they warmed up for the day's final runs.

Bochatay came over a hill on the trail and there was a snowplow hidden behind it. The plow was using its flashing light and its siren, according to Jean-Albert Corrand, director general of COJO, organizer of the Games. The Swiss team said that the snowcat was parked and hidden behind the jump, the Associated Press reported. An investigation is planned.

Witnesses to today's accident at Les Arcs said that Bochatay was wearing slalom skis, not the wider skis used in the speed competition, and that he was going quite fast. Bochatay died on the slope of "numerous internal injuries," according to a statement from the Swiss Olympic team.

Patrick Schamasch, chief medical officer for the games, said the accident occurred about 9:30 this morning, about three hours before the competition was to begin. The sport of speed skiing requires athletes to ski down a 70-degree slope at speeds approaching 135 miles an hour.

Though Bochatay's accident didn't happen while he was speed skiing, the sport has drawn as much notice for the injuries as for the event itself. The biographies of the participants are dotted with references to severe neck injuries.

Jeffrey Hamilton, an American speed skier from Truckee, Calif., was warming up just behind Bochatay with his teammate Jim Morgan. "Jim and I were watching and {Bochatay's} timing was all off as he took the jump," Hamilton told the Associated Press. "Then people started waving at us from down the hill to tell us to stop."

Bochatay was 13th after the first runs on Friday. His teammates, Roger Stump and Jorand, did not participate in the final runs. Silvano Meli, another Swiss skier, did participate and finished ninth.

Hamilton, who finished third in speed skiing, a demonstration sport, said the accident was "a mental nightmare." He and his U.S. teammates met to discuss the accident before the competition.

U.S. Coach Jack Nantz said: "I wanted everyone to know about it so they would not hear about it up on the hill. They all took it very well.

"It was a tremendous loss to the sport. Everybody felt it to lose a competitor like that in a freak accident. It is hard on everybody. It is part of skiing that things like this are going to happen."

When the speed skiing event started there was no mention by venue announcers of the accident. IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, COJO co-president Jean-Claude Killy and Corrand went to Les Arcs by helicopter after hearing of the accident and offered condolences to the family of Bochatay, a carpenter who was married with two children.

Bochatay was the nephew of Fernande Bochatay, winner of the bronze medal in women's giant slalom in the 1968 Games at Grenoble.

Bochatay is the second death associated with the Albertville Games. Hubert Marcy, a French Army officer on Olympic duty, was killed last week by an avalanche as he patrolled near Courchevel.