Deaths of two model sisters spark denials they were 'size zeros'

Two sisters, both models, have died of apparent heart attacks within months of each other.

Two sisters, both models, have died of apparent heart attacks within months of each other.

The family tragedy in Uruguay came as the fashion world debates how to protect the health of painfully thin catwalk models.

Eliana Ramos, 18, was buried yesterday by weeping relatives and friends, a day after she was found dead at her grandparents’ home in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo.

Her sister Luisel, 22, died shortly after stepping off a catwalk last August 2nd during a fashion show in Montevideo.

While no medical report was immediately released, Judge Roberto Timbal told the online news outlet Observa that Eliana died of a heart attack. A post mortem examination on her sister found she too had died of a heart attack.

Timbal told Observa that “nothing out of the ordinary” appeared to be involved in the latest death, but that results would be issued in a month. Fellow models said neither sister suffered from an eating disorder.

However, the deaths drew widespread media attention in Latin America, where the fashion industry’s treatment of young women has been much debated since anorexia was blamed for the deaths of 21-year-old model Ana Carolina Reston and three other Brazilian women in December.

Lucia Brocal, a model who shared the catwalk with Eliana, dismissed speculation in media reports that an eating disorder caused her death. “I’m indignant,” she said. “She died for the same reasons her sister did.”

“Whenever something happens they try to relate it to eating problems,” said another model, Erika Fallen. “But she died just like her sister did.”

The world fashion industry has been engaged in a debate over the health of its models in recent months, with shows in Spain and Italy banning ultra-thin models.

In Madrid on Sunday, organisers of Spain’s top annual fashion show rejected five of 69 models, saying they were underweight.

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

The British Fashion Council, which oversees the event, also formed a task force to devise strategies to promote health among young women.

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 Ramos sisters’ father, Luis Ramos, a former soccer player for the Uruguayan team Nacional, was reportedly on holiday with his wife elsewhere in the country at the time of Eliana’s death.

Journalists were barred from attending her burial, and the family did not issue a statement.

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