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Tomas Van Houtryve  /  AP
In this May 11, 2001 file photo, Miss Venezuela Eva Ekvall stands with other contestants, unseen, as they wait for the announcement of the winner of Miss Universe in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Ekvall died on Saturday Dec. 17 of cancer in Houston.
updated 12/19/2011 3:55:16 PM ET 2011-12-19T20:55:16

Former Miss Venezuela Eva Ekvall, whose struggle with breast cancer was closely followed by Venezuelans, has died at age 28.

Her family said Ekvall died Saturday at a hospital in Houston.

Ekvall was crowned Miss Venezuela at age 17 in 2000, and the following year she was third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico. She went on to work as a model, actress and television news anchor.

She also wrote a book, "Fuera de Foco" ("Out of Focus"), about her struggle with cancer, which included images by photographer Roberto Mata.

Ekvall's family said in a statement Sunday that her remains were being cremated in Houston on Monday and that a service is to be held in Venezuela once her remains are returned to the country.

She was married to radio producer John Fabio Bermudez and had a 2-year-old daughter.

Her death brought an outpouring of condolences from Venezuelans, including from some prominent artists and politicians.

Ekvall's husband posted a photo on Twitter Sunday showing a close-up of his hand holding hers, resting on a hospital bed, with the words "Always together ... I love you wife."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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