- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The NHL is looking at arena safety following the death of a 13-year-old girl who was hit in the forehead by a puck that flew into the stands.
Brittanie Cecil died two days after a deflected slap shot struck her at a Columbus Blue Jackets game, raising questions about the responsibilities of teams and arenas to protect fans. It was the first such fatality in league history.
NHL spokesman Frank Brown said yesterday the league would "look at everything" to ensure fan safety, although he did not provide details.
"We believe our buildings are safe, and history overwhelmingly has proven us right," he said. "We have entertained hundreds of millions of spectators over our 85 seasons, and we are devastated that this tragic accident took place."
The Blue Jackets plan to wear the girl's initials on their helmets for the rest of the season, he said. The team also will hold a moment of silence before tonight's game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Blue Jackets' first at home since the death, and will create a fund in the girl's memory.
Meanwhile, a coroner determined yesterday that Brittanie died from a rare injury to an artery that was damaged when her head snapped back.
The damage to the artery, which runs from the spine to the back of the brain, led to a "vicious cycle" of clotting in the artery and swelling of the brain, said Franklin County Coroner Brad Lewis, who performed the autopsy.
"The puck struck her in the forehead, causing a skull fracture and some bruising of the brain in the area," Lewis said. "But that wasn't what led to her death. It was the snapping back of the head and the damage to that artery."
Lewis said he consulted with other pathologists on the rarity of the injury. He said that a fellow pathologist had not encountered a similar injury and death in more than 25 years as a doctor.
The eighth-grader at Twin Valley South Middle School near Dayton had been at Children's Hospital in Columbus since being hurt Saturday night and died there late Monday afternoon. She remained conscious until Monday morning, Lewis said.
Brittanie, who would have turned 14 yesterday, was sitting about 15 rows above the ice at Nationwide Arena and behind the goal when the puck, 6 ounces of hard, frozen rubber, came flying into the stands.
The puck, which can travel more than 100 mph, was shot by Columbus center Espen Knutsen.


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