Bulgarian Ice-Dancing Champ on Trial for Fatal Crash

World ice-dancing champion Maxim Staviski, charged in connection with a fatal car crash, appeared at a pretrial hearing in a Bulgarian court Thursday.

The skater is accused of causing his sports utility vehicle to crash into an oncoming car in August. The accident left a 23-year-old man dead and an 18-year-old woman comatose for nearly four months.

"It is a grave tragedy. I do not want to comment," Staviski, wearing black, said before the hearing. Afterward, Staviski told reporters he would be fine but would walk with his "head down for my whole life."

The district court in the Black Sea city of Burgas on Thursday rejected the woman's claim for leva 2 million (nearly euro1 million; US$1.5 million) in compensation because the claim had been filed by her parents before she turned 18. The judge said that since she was now legally an adult, she would have to make the claim herself.

If the ruling on compensation is not appealed, the trial will resume on Jan. 30. The skater, meanwhile, was free on bail.

Staviski, who has not yet entered a plea, faces three to 10 years in prison if convicted of causing a serious traffic accident with grave consequences. The dead man's lawyer said, however, that Staviski could be given a suspended sentence if he pleaded guilty.

Police records show Staviski's blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

The skater's partner in life and on ice, Albena Denkova, told reporters at court that she wanted to personally apologize to the victims' families.

Staviski and Denkova captured their second consecutive ice-dancing title at the World Figure Skating Championships in March.