FACTBOX: Facts on ski fatalities and helmet use

(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.

* Helmet use increases with ability. Only 26 percent of beginner skiers wear them compared to 55 percent of advanced skiers.

(Source on Helmets and deaths is the National Ski Areas Association,

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte