Twenty Years Ago Today: Death of Ulrike Maier

Ulrike-Maier-22-October-1967-29-January-1994-celebrities-who-died-young-30396358-450-600It was two weeks before the Winter Olympics, but the world's best skiers weren't just twiddling their thumbs: they were gathered at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany for the downhill World Cup. Ulrike Maier was an Austrian who had already been a World Champion, and about as far from being a novice as it's possible to be. But luck was not with her that day. She crashed near the end of the course and broke her neck, dying not long after reaching hospital. While there were concerns at the time that her death might have been due to striking an obstacle on the course, it was eventually decided that a patch of softer snow knocking her off balance was the most likely culprit.

The incident is notable partly because it was being filmed as part of a live TV broadcast, and her death was therefore seen by millions. It's far from the only time that someone has suffered a fatal injury in front of a live TV camera - Ayrton Senna will suffer the same fate, later in 1994 - and it may not seem the most startling of spectacles in these modern days when Facebook has to be shamed into removing videos of people being beheaded. But nevertheless, it brings a lump to your throat when you watch it.

The YouTube video is, of course, all too easy to find, along with a cornucopia of other final moments from people meeting their end (starting with Franz Reichelt, who jumped off the Eiffel Tower wearing a prototype parachute in 1912, recorded in grim fashion by Pathe News). I'm sure you can find it if you really need to.

Here's an article from the Independent that gives more detail on her life and death.