A Canadian freestyle skier who was seriously injured during practice in Utah last week has died, her family said Thursday in a statement released by her publicist.
Sarah Burke, 29, died Thursday morning at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, where she had been treated for injuries she suffered during a training run at Park City Mountain Resort's superpipe.
Burke reportedly fell while trying a trick and "whiplashed" onto her side at Park City Mountain Resort's superpipe on January 10, officials have said. She ruptured a vertebral artery in the fall, leading to an intracranial hemorrhage that caused her to go into cardiac arrest at the accident site, according to a statement released by her publicist, Nicole Wool.
Emergency workers gave her CPR at the site, during which time she remained without a pulse or voluntary breathing. She was taken to a hospital, where she was put on life support and underwent successful surgery to repair the artery -- one of four major arteries supplying blood to the brain - the next day, according to the statement.
But after the surgery, tests determined she suffered "irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest," the statement reads.
"Sarah passed away peacefully surrounded by those she loved," according to the statement.
Burke, a native of Ontario who lived in British Columbia, was 11th in the Association of Freeskiing Professionals overall rankings last year. She won four gold medals in the Winter X Games, the event she was training for at the time of last week's accident. She also won gold at the 2005 world championships in Finland and in 2007 received ESPN's Best Female Action Sports Athlete award.
Burke is considered a pioneer of freestyle skiing and was a major force in getting the ski halfpipe event added to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, said last week.
The Canadian Freestyle Ski Association said on its Facebook page Thursday that it "sends its heartfelt condolences to the family of Sarah Burke."
Last week, Judge told reporters in a conference call that he didn't think the incident would damage the reputation of a sport that had just been added to the Olympic lineup.
"I think the sport in general is extremely safe. Obviously, there are inherent risks in any sport," he said. "Safety and athlete safety is one of the things that is paramount within our sport."
He added that often, because of the perceived dangers of the sport, those involved with it go above and beyond to ensure safety. He said there hadn't been a major freestyle incident in nearly 35 years. Still, Judge said, they would be looking at what happened to cause the accident to see whether anything needed to be reexamined.
"When there's an injury," Judge said last week, "you always do a full audit to understand what the root cause is and whether you can make anything safer."
People flooded Burke's Facebook page with messages of support after her fall. Her family, which thanked her friends and doctors for their care, said it "was moved by the sincere and heartfelt sympathy expressed by people inspired by Sarah from all around the world," and that a public celebration of her life would be held in the coming weeks.