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Sarah Burke Medical Bills: Donations Helping Defray Hospital Costs For Family Of Dead Skier

01/21/2012 11:37 am ET

While the grief experienced by the family and friends of Sarah Burke must be consuming following the tragic death of the 29-year-old freestyle skier, her loved ones may also be facing a more tangible problem -- Burke's medical bills.

After an accident during a training session on Jan. 11 in Park City, Utah, Burke was airlifted to a hospital in Salt Lake City. The Canadian freestyle pioneer and four-time Winter X Games champion was placed in a medically induced coma and scheduled for surgery. The skier remained in critical condition following surgery the following day to repair a tear to an artery that was causing bleeding in her brain. In the coming days, she remained sedated and dependent on a breathing tube as doctors observed her condition. A press conference on Jan. 16 to discuss Burke's condition was cancelled at the last minute.

On Jan. 19, nine days after the training crash, Burke died.

Shortly after Burke's passing, her family opened up a website to accept donations to help defray the substantial medical bills accrued during her hospital stay. According to the Los Angeles Times, the goal is to raise $550,000 to cover the medical costs.

As a Canadian citizen lived in Squamish, B.C., a small portion of Burke's medical bills will be covered by the British Columbia Ministry of Health. But it is unclear how the rest would be covered -- if not for the generous donations. Burke's fatal injury occurred while training for an event sponsored by Monster Energy Drink but it was initially unclear if they were going to pay medical fees or had an insurance policy in place to cover injuries during the event. On Jan. 20, former Olympian Marnie McBean tweeted about Monster's apparent inaction immediately following Burke's death.

On Jan. 20, Monster would also post a message on its website pledging "to support Sarah's family, are working directly with them to assess their needs and are committed to helping them financially."

Perhaps unaware of Monster's pledge or feeling that it had come too late considering all of the support that fans and well wishers had offered, McBean again tweeted about Monster's role in paying Burke's medical bills.

Had Burke's injury occurred at an event sanctioned by the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association then her medical costs would have been covered. As of the morning of Jan. 21, more than $240,000 had been contributed to the website set up by Burke's family. Donors had the opportunity to share a message if they chose. A donor named Sean Smith, who contributed $100 on Jan. 21, wrote "look for and feel Sarah's spirit, it is all around us. much love to the family."

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