Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Puck kills fan during NHL game

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Seconds after being hit by a hockey puck at a National Hockey League game, a 13-year-old girl held a jacket to her head to staunch the bleeding and walked to an exit.

        Monday night, Brittanie Cecil became the first spectator to die after being hit by a puck at an NHL game. She also became one of the few fan fatalities at an American sports event other than auto racing directly related to action on the field.

        An eighth-grader at Twin Valley South Middle School near Dayton, she would have turned 14 today. The girl was struck in the head by a shot early in the second period of the Columbus Blue Jackets' 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.

        Columbus center Espen Knutsen's slap shot from the top of the left circle appeared to be deflected by a defenseman, with the puck flying over the high glass at the west end of the ice. It appeared to glance off another spectator and hit the teen in the left temple, witnesses said.

        Arena officials and medical personnel immediately helped her out of her seat — 15 rows off the ice — and up the steps to the exit.

        Hospital officials would not disclose the cause of death, and relatives declined comment. Her classmates were in mourning, and the small town where she lived, West Alexandria, was overcome by the loss.

        “I spoke to Brittanie's father this morning,” Blue Jackets president and general manager Doug MacLean said, teary-eyed and his voice choking. “As a father of a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old, I can't imagine the grief the family is experiencing.”

        Children's Hospital confirmed the girl died Monday, but at the family's request did not provide any more information about how long she had been in the hospital or the nature of her injury.

        A brief news release issued by the hospital said that the girl's parents had donated her organs “in the hope that others will be blessed as much as they were by her life.”


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