Despite the best efforts of doctors and surgeons, French skiing champion Regine Cavagnoud died Wednesday from the head injuries she sustained two days earlier after colliding with German ski coach Markus Anwander during a training run.
The day before the collision, the 31-year-old super-G champion won a bronze medal in the seasons opening World Cup giant slalom at Soelden, Austria.
With her family at her bedside at the Innsbruck University Clinic, Cavagnouds respirator was disconnected after scans showed that her brain had ceased to function.
She had cleared a slight hump on the Pitzal glacier on a training run, and was travelling at about 65 km/h, when she slammed into Anwander. Authorities who are investigating the crash discovered that the German and French teams were using different radio frequencies, and that Anwander had no indication a skier was on course when he attempted to cross to the other side.
Anwander was also critically injured, and at press time was still being treated for life-threatening injuries. On Oct. 31, he underwent a spinal operation.
Although Cavagnoud suffered severe head injuries, her brain was still functioning when she was admitted to the clinic. According to Dr. Wolfgang Koller, the head of trauma at the Innsbruck University Clinic, her condition worsened as brain swelling compounded the injuries.
Doctors will perform an autopsy to determine who and what was responsible for her death. Police are investigating and anyone found responsible could be charged with manslaughter.
Alpine Canada Alpin issued a statement Wednesday.
"Alpine Canada Alpin and the Canadian Alpine Ski Team are deeply saddened by the loss of Regine," said Kerry Moynihan, president of ACA. "This is a terrible tragedy. Regine was a fierce competitor and a true champion. She will most definitely be missed by the entire ski racing family.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cavagnoud family and the French Ski Federation. We also keep Markus Anwander, who continues to battle for his life, in our thoughts."
Melanie Turgeon, a Canadian racer who has faced Cavagnoud in World Cup races for the past eight season, also expressed her sorrow from the Canadian teams training camp in Colorado.
"Its sad because Regine was a good person. She was a great skier, a great champion but especially a great person. Its very said," said Turgeon.
The last World Cup skier to die on the slopes was Austrias Ulrike Maier, who crashed on an icy downhill course in Germany in 1994 and sustained fatal neck and head injuries. She was 26 years old and the mother of a baby daughter when she died.
Her crash was blamed on chemical treatments that made the snow rock hard, and the design of the course. After her death, the FIS disallowed the use of snow-hardening chemicals and changed the way downhill courses are set to keep competitors on the edges of their skis for almost the entire race.
Prior to Maier, Austrias Peter Wirnsberger died in 1992 after a crash on a World Cup downhill course at Altenmarkt, Austria. The year before, Austrias Gernot Reinstandler died after crashing on the downhill course at Wengen, Switzlerland.