Innsbruck, Austria, Oct. 31, 2001 (AP)–Super-G skiing champion Regine Cavagnoud died Wednesday at the Innsbruck University Hospital of head injuries sustained two days before in a collision with a German ski coach.
Cavagnoud was surrounded by her family when the respirator that was keeping her alive was switched off, said Dr. Wolfgang Koller, the head of the trauma intensive care unit at the Innsbruck University Clinic.
“We made final examinations that made it very clear that the brain of Regine Cavagnoud was not working at all,” Koller told The Associated Press.
Though she suffered severe brain injuries in the collision, Cavagnoud’s brain was partly functioning when she was flown by helicopter to the hospital after Monday’s accident, Koller said. Her condition worsened as brain swelling compounded her injuries.
The 31-year-old French woman, a super-G World Cup champion, collided with German ski coach Markus Anwander during training on an Austrian glacier Monday.
Anwander was also seriously injured. He underwent spinal surgery Wednesday, and though his condition had improved, his life was still at risk, Koller said.
Cavagnoud had been in critical condition since she was flown to the hospital. She suffered serious brain injuries and facial fractures when she crashed head first into the coach when they crossed paths.
Cavagnoud’s death is the first fatality involving a World Cup skier since Austria’s Ulrike Maier died in 1994 after crashing into a post in a World Cup downhill race in Garmisch-Partenkirschen, Germany.
German and French ski officials said Tuesday the accident was caused by communication problems between their teams, which were both practicing on the Pitzhal glacier.
The Austrian prosecutor has begun investigating. Spokesman Rudolf Koll said Tuesday the coach might be responsible for the accident.
Earlier, German ski federation officials said there was no joint radio frequency that would have enabled the teams to be in direct contact.
“Unfortunate circumstances added up here,” said Wolfgang Maier, the chief coach of the German women’s team.
Besides winning the super-G World Cup, Cavagnoud was third overall in the World Cup standings last season and has long been a strong competitor in the downhill and giant slalom.
Her career was plagued by injuries. She finally won a race in her 10th year of competition, a downhill in January 1999. That broke a 17-year drought by French women in downhill races.
On Sunday, she finished third after an excellent second run in the season’s opening World Cup in Soelden.