2 Uruguayan Sisters, Both Models, Die

The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 14, 2007; 9:03 PM

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay -- Two sisters, both models, have died of apparent heart attacks within months of each other _ a family tragedy that came as the fashion world debates how to protect the health of painfully thin runway models.

Eliana Ramos, 18, was buried Wednesday, a day after she was found dead at her grandparents' home in the Uruguayan capital. Her sister Luisel, 22, died shortly after stepping off a runway last Aug. 2 during a fashion show in Montevideo.

While no medical report was immediately released after Eliana's death, Judge Roberto Timbal told the online news outlet Observa that she died of a heart attack. An autopsy on her sister found she died of a heart attack.

The judge told Observa that "nothing out of the ordinary" appeared to be involved in Eliana's death, but that an autopsy was conducted and final test results would be issued in a month.

Other models said neither sister suffered from an eating disorder.

"I'm indignant," Lucia Brocal, a model who shared the runway with Eliana, said of local reports speculating that poor eating habits were linked to her death. "She died for the same reasons her sister did."

Erika Fallen, another model, also rejected the reports. "Whenever something happens, they try to relate it to eating problems. But she died just like her sister did," she said.

However, the deaths drew widespread media attention in Latin America, where the fashion industry's treatment of young women has been the subject of debate since anorexia was blamed for the deaths of model Ana Carolina Reston and three other Brazilian women in December.

The world fashion industry has taken some action against anorexia and the vogue for stick-thin models, with shows in Spain and Italy banning ultra-thin models. In Madrid on Sunday, organizers of Spain's top annual fashion show rejected five of 69 models, saying they were underweight.

On Monday, organizers of Britain's Fashion Week declined to follow suit with an explicit ban, but insisted that no size zero women be used.

One of Uruguay's most famed designers, Susana Bernik, told the daily newspaper Ultimas Noticias that ultra-thin models are not a major issue in the country.

"There may be a few who are a little too thin but that is not common," Bernik was quoted as saying. "There are tall girls here but you don't see the extremely thin ones like those you see in the European shows."

The sisters' father, Luis Ramos, is a former soccer player for Uruguayan squad Nacional, and was reportedly vacationing with his wife elsewhere in the country at the time of Eliana's death.

© 2007 The Associated Press