Silhouetted skier in action. Gary M. Prior/ALLSPORT/GettyImages
Making the most of winter fun, the rich and famous often enjoy skiing. And, why not? It’s great exercise and an excuse to hang out at the ritzy ski resorts in places like Vail, Colorado, and Lake Tahoe. But there is danger involved with this sport…high speeds, cliffs, avalanches, and more. Here is a brief look at some of the unlucky celebrities who died tragically in skiing accidents.
One half of the hit singing 1970s duo, Sonny and Cher, Sonny Bono had left the entertainment industry behind in favor of politics in the 1980s and 1990s when his life was cut tragically short. The 62-year old Bono, his current wife, Mary, and their two young children were vacationing at a ski resort in Nevada in 1998 when Bono decided to go for a solo ski, leaving his wife and kids to relax at the ski lodge. He never returned. After several hours, his wife alerted the lodge’s ski patrol and a search party was organized. Bono’s body was found in a heavily wooded area just off the slopes. It appeared as though Bono had veered off into the woods at a high rate of speed and struck a tree. He died of blunt force trauma to the head.
The star of The Parent Trap, Maid in Manhattan, Nell, and The Handmaid’s Tale, actress Natasha Richardson was visiting a ski resort in Quebec in 2009 with her husband, actor Liam Neeson, when she fell on a beginner’s slope. Richardson didn’t hit her head and the fall did not appear to be very serious. She even joked about her clumsiness. As a precaution, the ski patrol wanted her to be checked out by a doctor, but Richardson declined. A few hours later, an ambulance was dispatched to her hotel room, but again, Richardson stated that she was fine and didn’t need treatment. Later that night, she was admitted to the local hospital exhibiting signs of hematoma or bleeding on the brain. She died with her husband by her side. Natasha Richardson’s unexpected and tragic death served as a cautionary tale about the nature of head injuries. Her death could have been prevented had she worn a ski helmet and if she had received medical care immediately after her injury.
Michael L. Kennedy, left, a son of the late Robert F. and Ethel Kennedy, is shown with his brother Joseph Kennedy, right, in 1987.
The son of Robert F. Kennedy, Michael Kennedy was 39 years old when he died on the ski slopes of Aspen, Colorado, in 1997, just a few weeks before Sonny Bono’s skiing death. Just prior to Kennedy’s ski accident, he was playing football on skis, a popular game among the Kennedy family. He lost control and crashed head first into a tree while playing the game with friends and family members. It was obvious at the scene of the accident that Kennedy had suffered a traumatic head injury. His sister even attempted to revive him by doing CPR on him until the paramedics arrived. Although Kennedy was transported to the nearest hospital, he never regained consciousness and was declared dead.
Dutch prince Johan Friso (right) and his wife, Mabel Wisse Smit at their wedding.
Dutch Prince Johan Friso
Prince Johan Friso, the younger brother of the King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, passed away in 2013 as the result of a skiing accident that occurred a year and a half before his death. The 44-year-old prince had been skiing at a resort in Austria in February of 2012 when he was caught in an avalanche. An avid and experienced skier, the prince and a friend had gone away from the groomed slopes and into an area with a higher risk of avalanche. When the avalanche struck them, the prince’s friend was carried down the slope in an air pocket under the snow, but the prince was not so lucky. He was buried deep in the snow. He was wearing a signaling device that alerted rescuers to his location, but it took them nearly an hour to find him and dig him out of the snow. The head injury and lack of oxygen to his brain cause irreparable damage and the prince spent the last eighteen months of his life in a coma-like state of minimal consciousness.
On November 13, 1998, Michael Trudeau, the youngest son of then-Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau and the brother of the current Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was killed in an avalanche while skiing in British Columbia. He was skiing with friends when the avalanche occurred. Trudeau was pushed into Kokanee Lake and the advancing wall of snow prevented him from reaching the shore. Trudeau drowned in the frigid waters and rescue crews never found his body.