Doctors fear that Prince Johan Friso of the Netherlands may never come out of the coma he fell into after being buried in an avalanche during a Feb. 17 ski outing in the Austrian Alps.

The 43-year-old royal had been skiing with a friend when the avalanche struck. Johan Friso suffered major brain damage from being buried for 20 minutes under a wall of snow estimated at 30 meters wide and 40 meters long.

Dr. Wolfgang Koller, head of trauma at the Innsbruck hospital where Johan Friso is being treated, said: It is clear the oxygen starvation has caused massive brain damage to the patient. At the moment it cannot be predicted if he will ever regain consciousness.

The Dutch royal family, including his wife, Princess Mabel Wisse Smit, has been visiting Johan Friso at the hospital since the accident. Smit and the prince tied the knot in 2004, after he gave up his right to the throne to be with her. Smit, a commoner, had previous ties to a mobster. The couple have two daughters together.

Queen Beatrix has expressed her family's gratitude for the countless messages that well-wishers have sent regarding her son.