Super-G skiing champion Regine Cavagnoud died today at the Innsbruck University Hospital of head injuries sustained Monday in a collision with a German coach.
Cavagnoud was surrounded by her family when the respirator that was keeping her alive was switched off this morning, 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 said.
Though she suffered facial fractures and severe brain injuries in the collision, Cavagnoud's brain was partly functioning when she was flown by helicopter to the hospital, Koller said. 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 today, and though his condition had improved, his life was still at risk, Koller said.
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 Germany.
Cavagnoud is one of 11 skiers to have died in training or competition in the past 40 years. Austria's Maier was the only other woman killed in that time.
German and French ski officials said Tuesday the accident was caused by communication problems between their teams, which were both practicing on the glacier.
The Austrian prosecutor has begun investigating. Spokesman Rudolf Koll said the coach might be responsible for the accident.
"French sport today loses one of its great champions," said French President Jacques Chirac in a handwritten note to Cavagnoud's parents. "Regine left her mark on worldwide skiing with her unlimited generosity and extraordinary courage."
Anwander, 40, was working in a hollow when Cavagnoud descended, said German ski spokesman Ralf Eder. Traveling at about 60 miles per hour, she wouldn't have seen him until the last moment.
Besides winning the super-G World Cup, Cavagnoud was third overall in the World Cup standings last season.