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A simple misstep results in fatal head injury for royal relative

The world lost a dedicated philanthropist, conservationist and fundraiser in April. The British royal family also lost another member in a tragic accident. Mark Shand, the younger brother of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, died in the hospital, just hours after he slipped and fell on a New York City sidewalk.

Shand had attended a charity auction at Sotheby's earlier in the evening. The Faberge Big Egg Hunt raised more than $3 million for Elephant Family, which Shand had founded more than a decade ago. (The organization is dedicated to protecting the endangered Asian elephant.) In addition to his duties as chairman of the organization, Shand was a noted travel writer.

After the auction, Shand spent the rest of the evening out on the town, ending the night at the Gramercy. It was there that he stepped outside and, reportedly lighting a cigarette, slipped and smashed his head on the pavement. According to the police, when first responders reached him, he was conscious and complaining of head pain.

A statement on behalf of the royal family said only that the family was devastated and that Shand had died of a head injury. London newspapers, however, were quick to report that Shand had been drinking over the course of the evening and, according to the Daily Express, was taking blood pressure medication that sometimes gave him dizzy spells.

What most of us know from similar high-profile tragedies -- the death of actress Natasha Richardson in 2009, for example -- is that this kind of head injury can prove fatal regardless of whether the victim had been drinking or had a dizzy spell. He could have just as easily slipped on wet pavement or on an icy sidewalk during this year's long and unforgiving winter.

And what too many families here in Albany know too well is that this doesn't just happen to celebrities.

Sources: 

People, "Camilla's Brother, Mark Shand, Is Laid to Rest," Monique Jessen, May 1, 2014

New York Daily News, "Camilla Parker Bowles' brother dies in New York hospital after smashing head," Lachlan Cartwright and Ginger Adams Otis, April 23, 2014

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