Donations help cover Burke's medical bills

Published: Friday, Jan. 20 2012 4:16 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — In less than 24 hours, fans, friends and fellow skiers raised enough money to pay Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke's outstanding medical bills as well as establish a fund to help develop aspiring athletes.

Burke died Thursday morning at 9:22 a.m. as a result of injuries sustained in a training accident at the superpipe at Park City Mountain Resort on Jan. 10. The fall tore a vertebral artery, which caused intracranial bleeding. She then suffered cardiac arrest and her brain was severely and irreversibly damaged by lack of blood flow due to the cardiac arrest. Once tests revealed Burke's brain would not recover, her family chose to honor Burke's wishes and donate her organs in hopes of saving the lives of others.

Burke was training at Park City Mountain Resort for upcoming winter events, according to her publicist, Nicole Wool. She was not competing in a sponsor event or riding for a specific sponsor that day. There were questions about who she was skiing for and whether her medical bills would be covered by the Canadian Ski Team or corporate sponsors, but officials are working to resolve those.

"The Burke family has not yet received a hospital bill from the University of Utah," said Wool in a written statement. "Based on early estimates, total charges for Sarah's care are expected to be approximately $200,000. Once charges are finalized, the University will work with Health Canada to determine what type of coverage may be available and what their contribution will be, as Sarah is a Canadian citizen."

Canadians have a national healthcare plan that covers all of its citizens, but it's unclear how bills accumulated in the U.S. would be paid or covered.. Any additional funds raised through the website will be used to establish a fund that will help develop the programs Burke was passionate about advancing. In less than 24 hours, the website raised nearly $200,000.

"The family continues to be extremely grateful for the outpouring of support and messages honoring Sarah and the generous contributions that have been made via www2.giveforward.com/sarahburke.html and www.wepay.com/donations/sarah-burke. Because of the donations in the last day, it is now clear that Sarah's family will not have any financial burden related to her care. Further contributions will be used to establish a foundation to honor Sarah's legacy and promote the ideals she valued and embodied."

Wool said the family is grateful to Burke's sponsors, the University of Utah Hospital and fans who have flooded social media sites with sentiments of sorrow, admiration, affection and respect for Burke and her accomplishments.

"Michael Spencer, Sarah's business manager, wishes to express gratitude to all of Sarah's sponsors, who have been extremely supportive of Sarah, and for their continued contributions to her care and legacy," Wool said. "The family also wishes to express its gratitude to the University of Utah Hospital for their ongoing support both in caring for Sarah and the family, as well as helping them understand and resolve questions related to billing."

Monster Energy, one of Burke's sponsors, issued a statement Friday regarding the skier's death and their support of her family and legacy.

"Our deepest condolences go to Sarah's husband, parents, family and friends and all who knew this talented athlete," the statement said. "All of us at Monster are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Sarah was a freeskiing pioneer, a five-time X Games gold medalist and an inspiring, all-around role model, who was instrumental in helping to bring freestyle ski events to the Winter Olympic Games. Sadly, the accident occurred during the course of Sarah's training, alongside other athletes, for upcoming winter competitions. As soon as we learned about the accident, we offered uninterrupted support to Sarah and her family. Without hesitation, we will continue to support Sarah's family, are working directly with them to assess their needs and are committed to helping them financially. As a company, we are privileged to work with the world's top athletes. Sarah epitomizes the essence and spirit of why we do what we do."

The popular energy drink is a main sponsor for action and adventure sport events.

email: adonaldson@desnews.com

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