Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke died Thursday morning at the age of 29, just nine days after falling and then whiplashing onto her side on Jan. 10 at the Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah, upon landing a practice run trick on the halfpipe ramp.
Tests revealed Burke sustained irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest, according to a statement released by Burke's publicist Nicole Wool on behalf of her family.
Burke, a four-time superpipe Winter X Games champion and 2005 halfpipe world gold medalist, was in an induced coma and critical condition since being flown by helicopter to University of Utah Hospital after her fall. She went into cardiac arrest immediately after the accident and had surgery on Jan. 11 to repair a torn vertebral artery located in the neck that caused cranial bleeding.
Burke's family had planned to hold a Monday news conference about Burke's condition, but instead cancelled it early in the morning after speaking with Burke's physicians in what seems like a sign of worse news to come.
Wool said Burke's organs will be donated.
The family expresses their heartfelt gratitude for the international outpouring of support they have received from all the people Sarah touched, Wool also said in her statement.
Burke, widely considered a freestyle skiing pioneer who played a major role in getting halfpipe added to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, was preparing to defend her gold medal at this year's Winter X Games, which begin on Jan. 26 in Aspen, Colo.
Fans of the popular Burke offered the skier high praise and condolences in what might be considered freestyle skiing's and even winter sports' most tragic death:
Oh gosh, such heartbreaking news about Sarah Burke. My thoughts & prayers are with her family & friends.
What a good day turned bad. So sad to hear about the passing of sarah burke. Prayers go out to her family and loved ones
Canada and the world loses a great athlete, RIP Sarah Burke ~
RIP Sarah Burke. You were a god on the slopes
RIP Sarah Burke your a legend
So sorry to hear the news about Sarah Burke. She was an icon #freestyleskiing #SarahBurke
Really sad to hear the news of Sarah Burke, a woman who just didn't reach for the stars but yanked them from the sky #RIP.
Celebrities and other athletes chimed in as well:
Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade wrote: Sadden to hear the new about one of the great athletes of our time. RIP @sarah_j_burke you are and was a true champion..
Canadian rock band Nickelback wrote: RIP Sarah Burke. An inspiration on and off the slopes. #proudCanadian
U.S. women's soccer player Abby Wambach wrote: we are thinking of you Sarah Burke... your impact will be felt for a long time. #RIP
NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson wrote: I didn't know Sarah Burke but I'm saddened to here she is no longer with us... Jimmie Johnson
Burke's death will be sure to spark more debate over halfpipe safety, considering other devastating injuries in Burke's sport. Snowboarder Kevin Pearce crashed on the same halfpipe Burke did during a training accident on Dec. 31, 2009 and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
There are inherent risks in everything, said Peter Judge, the CEO of Canada's freestyle team, before Burke's death. Certainly, freestyle skiing has one of the greatest safety records of almost any sport. Freestyle is a very safe sport in large part because we had to build a safe sport in order to get into the Olympics.
Burke was no stranger to injury. Her biggest one came in 2009 when she broke a vertebrae in her back after landing awkwardly while competing in slopestyle at the X Games.
I've been doing this for long time, 11 years, said burke in a 2010 interview. I've been very lucky with the injuries I've had. It's part of the game. Everybody gets hurt. Looking back on it, I'd probably do the exact same thing again.
Almost heroically, Burke returned to competition just a year after that injury.
Sarah, in many ways, defines the sport, Judge also said. She's been involved since the very, very early days as one of the first people to bring skis into the pipe. She's also been very dedicated in trying to define her sport but not define herself by winning. For her, it's been about making herself the best she can be rather than comparing herself to other people.