UPDATE 1-Canadian skier Sarah Burke dies of injuries-spokeswoman

Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:52pm EST

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By Dan Whitcomb

Jan 19 (Reuters) - World-class Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke died on Thursday from injuries she sustained in a training accident in Utah last week, a family spokeswoman said.

Considered one of the leading half-pipe athletes in the world, Burke was among the early favorites to win the Olympic gold medal in her sport at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

"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, 29, was taken by air ambulance to the University of Utah hospital last Tuesday after falling during a half-pipe run at Park City Mountain Resort. She had surgery the following day to repair a tear in her vertebral artery, the hospital said.

Yen said in the statement that Burke suffered a ruptured vertebral artery in the fall, which led to a severe intracranial hemorrhage.

"After the operation, numerous neurological examinations, electrodiagnostic tests and imaging studies revealed that Sarah sustained severe irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest," Yen said in the statement.

"While early reports in the media stated that Sarah's injury was a traumatic brain injury, it is important to note that Sarah's condition was the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain during cardiac arrest," she said.

Yen said that Burke's family "was moved by the sincere and heartfelt sympathy expressed by people inspired by Sarah from all around the world."

She said a public celebration of Burke's life would be held in the coming weeks. Burke was married to fellow skier Rory Bushfield. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)

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