Leanza Cornett, crowned Miss America 1993, died Wednesday afternoon following a reported head injury a few weeks prior. She was 49.
Born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, Cornett graduated from Terry Parker High School in 1989 and went to Jacksonville University, according to WJXT-TV.
She married Mark Steines in 1995, and the two stayed together for 17 years and had two children — Avery and Kai — together.
On Oct. 16, a post on the “Leanza Cornett’s Circle of Love” Facebook page alerted followers to the fact that Cornett had experienced some sort of accident.
“It is with a heavy heart I need to share with you that on Monday of this week Leanza Cornett sustained a serious head injury that required emergency surgery,” Sue Roberts shared.
“Right now she is in the ICU. They aren’t allowing flowers or visitors at this time. I am asking for positivity, hope and healing.”
Cornett had a following not only from her pageant days but also from her time hosting or appearing on several television shows as well as playing “Ariel” in the 1991 live-action “Little Mermaid” show at Walt Disney World.
On Wednesday, the Cornett Facebook page was updated with sad news.
“Dear Disney family,” the post began. “I’m here to let you know Leanza passed this afternoon.”
“She was so loved. I don’t feel like writing a lot right now; my heart is broken.”
Shortly after, the Miss America Organization relayed the sad message to its own followers.
“It is with great sadness the Miss America Organization relays the news our beloved Miss America and friend, Leanza Cornett, has passed away,” the page posted on Wednesday.
“Leanza had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laugh was infectious,” the post said. “We know she meant so much to so many, including all of you. 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.”
Steines also wrote about his late wife on Instagram.
“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,” he posted. “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.”
Cornett is survived by her sons Avery, 16, and Kai, 18.
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