Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke dies at 29

Thu Jan 19, 2012 8:25pm EST
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By Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) - Top Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, an early gold medal favorite ahead of the 2014 Olympics, died at a Utah hospital on Thursday from injuries she suffered in a training fall. She was 29.

Burke, one of the top half-pipe athletes in the world and an ambassador for freestyle skiing who lobbied hard for the sport to be part of the Olympics, died at the Salt Lake City hospital where she was taken last week following the accident.

"Sarah passed away peacefully surrounded by those she loved. In accordance with Sarah's wishes, her organs and tissues were donated to save the lives of others," family spokeswoman Iris Yen said in a written statement released to Reuters.

Burke, a pioneer in her sport and a popular athlete who was married to fellow skier Rory Bushfield, fell on the Eagle Superpipe after performing a trick known as a Flat Spin 540, according to the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.

Peter Judge, the ski association's chief executive, said the injury was due to "freak accident" that occurred after Burke had performed a trick that was well within her capabilities.

"Our hearts go out to Sarah's husband Rory and her entire family. It's difficult for us to imagine their pain and what they're going through," Judge said.

Yen said in her statement that Burke suffered a ruptured vertebral artery in the fall, which led to a severe intracranial hemorrhage and caused her to go into cardiac arrest.

The world-class athlete had surgery at the hospital to repair that artery, but remained in critical condition and apparently did not regain consciousness before her death.   Continued...