Ex-Miss America Leanza Cornett has died at 49, less than three weeks after suffering a severe brain injury following a fall at her Florida home.
The former beauty queen, who won the national title in 1993, passed away in hospital on Wednesday after undergoing emergency surgery earlier this month, friends said.
The tragic news was shared in a Facebook group titled, Leanza Cornett’s Circle of Love, which had provided friends and fans with updates on her condition.
‘Dear Disney family, I’m here to let you know Leanza passed this afternoon,’ a friend said in a post. ‘She was so loved. I don’t feel like writing a lot right now; my heart is broken.’
Tragic: Former Miss America Leanza Cornett has died at 49 as she was in a Jacksonville hospital being treated for a head injury she suffer less than three weeks ago. She was snapped in Atlantic City in 2017
Cornett was wed to Mark Steines from 1995 until 2013; he took to social media on Wednesday in the wake of her tragic death
The Miss America Organization subsequently shared a statement on Facebook confirming her passing.
‘Leanza had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laugh was infectious. We know she meant so much to so many, including all of you,’ the organization said.
‘We are devastated by this sudden loss in our Miss America family and we are deeply sorry for her family and close friends for their loss.
‘At the moment, we do not have any further information regarding a service for Leanza and we ask that you please respect her family during this difficult time. Hold on tight to those you love today. Time is certainly precious.’
No cause of death was given, however, posts from her support page reveal Cornett ‘sustained an enormous blow to the back of her head’ and underwent emergency surgery after falling in her kitchen on October 12.
‘The surgery she had on Tuesday was to stop the bleeding in her brain. Right now there is some continued bleeding and swelling. Brain injuries are not black and white. We have to just take this day by day,’ Close friend Sue Roberts said in October 18 post.
In her pageant career, Cornett won the Miss America pageant in 1993, a year after winning Miss Florida
The Miss America Organization subsequently shared an update on its Facebook announcing the death and saying Cornett ‘had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laugh was infectious’
Cornett (pictured left at a medical missions fundraiser for Africa in 2013) was married to Mark Steines (right) from 1995 until 2013. He is now married to author Julie Steines (right)
Roberts did not provide further details of the accident but revealed it had occurred in a moment that ‘could have happened to anyone.’
‘A fall in the kitchen. I am a self-proclaimed dork and have fallen a million times in my house. Accidents happen. I’m saying this because I think all of us need to just hug each other a little tighter and love each other a little longer,’ she added.
In her pageant career, Cornett won the Miss America pageant in 1993, a year after winning Miss Florida.
The previous year Cornett portrayed Ariel in a live-action production of The Little Mermaid at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort, according to WJXT.
She also had appeared as an actress on TV shows including CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Weeds and Saved by the Bell: The New Class.
Cornett was wed to Mark Steines from 1995 until 2013. She is survived by two sons, Avery Steines, 16, and Kai Steines, 18.
‘It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the passing of my ex-wife, Leanza the mother to our two extraordinary sons Kai and Avery,’ Mark Steines wrote on Instagram.
‘We will always remember the wonderful times shared during her short time here on earth I find comfort knowing Kai and Avery will forever have the best guardian angel watching over them as they navigate life’s path.
‘I ask that you please keep them as well as Leanza’s parents and her family in your prayers.’