Former Miss America winner Leanza Cornett has died at the age of 49.
The Miss America Organisation confirmed her death on Wednesday in a statement, after a Facebook group wrote on October 16 that Leanza had “sustained a serious head injury that required emergency surgery.”
Her ex-husband Mark Steines has also confirmed the news.
While no official cause of death has been given, News 4 Jax – an NBC affiliate based in Leanza’s hometown of Jacksonville, Florida – reported that she had died following hospitalisation for a head injury.
The Miss America Organisation wrote: “It is with great sadness the Miss America Organization relays the news our beloved Miss America and friend, Leanza Cornett, has passed away.
“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.
“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.
“With much love, The MAO Team.”
A Facebook page titled Leanza Cornett’s Circle of Love, dedicated to updating fans on her condition, wrote: “Dear Disney family, 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.”
Leanza had been crowned the competition’s winner in 1992, before which she had starred as Ariel in The Voyage of the Little Mermaid stage show.
After winning the title, she made a string of small screen appearances, which included Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Grown Ups, The Tick, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Weeds.
In 1995, she tied the knot with former Home and Family host Mark, with whom she shares son Kai, 18, and Avery, 16.
They split in 2013, Mark confirming the news of her death on Wednesday.
He wrote 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.
“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.”