FACTBOX: Facts on ski fatalities and helmet use

Fri Mar 20, 2009 3:47pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Actress Natasha Richardson died on Wednesday after suffering severe injuries in a skiing accident in Canada. Her death has reignited a public discussion about the use of helmets in the sport.

Following are other famous people who died due to skiing accidents as well as statistics on skiing and helmet use.

* Michael LeMoyne Kennedy, son of the late U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, died in 1997 after striking a tree while skiing in Aspen, Colorado. He was 39.

* Sonny Bono, a singer and entertainer who entered politics and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, died after hitting a tree in 1998 while skiing near South Lake Tahoe, California. He was 62.

* Michel Trudeau, son of the late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was swept into a lake by an avalanche in 1998 while skiing at British Columbia's Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. His body was never found. He was 23.

* John McWethy, a longtime national security correspondent for U.S. network ABC, died in 2008 after striking a tree in Keystone, Colorado. He was 60.

* An average of 39 people have died in skiing accidents each year over the past decade, according to the website of the U.S.-based National Ski Areas Association.

* Statistics cited by the NSAA indicate helmet use is up, with 43 percent of skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets last winter, compared to 25 percent five years earlier.

* Increased helmet usage, however, has not reduced fatalities. Most helmets are not built to guard against impacts at speeds skiers and snowboarders easily reach.   Continued...