Celeb Skiing Tragedy Highlights Risks

Sonny Bono, the singer who first gained fame as part of the husband-wife group Sonny and Cher, later became a Republican congressman from Southern California.

He was killed after he hit a tree at Heavenly Ski Resort near South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Jan. 5, 1998. His epitaph is the title of one of his most popular songs: "And the Beat Goes On."

Michael Kennedy was the sixth of 11 children of Robert F. Kennedy and his wife, Ethel. A lawyer by training, he helped his brother Joe Kennedy run Citizens Energy Corp., a nonprofit organization that supplied heating oil to people who could not afford it.

Kennedy died in a 1997 skiing accident near Aspen, Colo.

Princess Caroline of Monaco was skiing at an exclusive ski resort in the Austrian Alps, in 2001, when a skier crashed into her while she was with an instructor. The princess, who is the eldest daughter of American film actress Grace Kelly, was airlifted to a private clinic where a keyhole operation repaired her torn knee ligament.

Supermodel Christie Brinkley hurt her back during a 2006 ski trip in Aspen, Colo. The CoverGirl cosmetics model reportedly noticed something was wrong after she fell while skiing. A doctor's visit revealed that she was very close to severing her spinal cord, Brinkley told "Extra." In February 2007, she underwent surgery to address the problem.

John McWethy, the chief national security correspondent for ABC News died at 61 after chest injuries sustained in a 2008 skiing accident. After serving as the nework's chief national security correspondent since 1984, McWethy had retired to Boulder, Colo., with his wife.

Dieter Althaus, 50, is a German politician, the president of the central German state of Thuringia. On Jan. 1, 2009, he was skiing in Styria, Austria, when he reportedly wandered from an expert run onto a beginner's course and collided with a 41-year-old woman, Beata Christandl.

He was wearing a helmet, but she was not. She later died. Althaus, who was seriously injured, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He was fined 33,000 euros (about $41,000), and ordered to pay an additional 5,000 euros to Christandl's husband.

"Depending on whose numbers you use, there are 8 [million] to 10 million regular skiers in America," said Greg Ditrinco, the executive editor of Ski Magazine in Boulder, Colo., "and the number of serious injuries and deaths is low.

"In the last five to eight years skiers have been using shorter, wider skis," he said. "The gear revolution has put people on terrain they would not have been on 10 or 15 years ago. They're skiing more of the mountain."

"But we've done stories over the years about how safe it is -- how it's safer than riding a bike or swimming, things like that," he said.

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