American Idol contestant Nikki McKibbin dies

Nikki McKibbin, a singer from Texas best known for her third place finish in the first season of American Idol, has died aged 42.

McKibbin's husband, Craig Sadler, confirmed her death in a Facebook post, saying she had died after suffering a brain aneurysm on Wednesday and was taken off life support early on Sunday.

She appeared on American Idol in 2002, finishing third behind Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson, who won the competition.

"She was so loved that I know thousands of you will be grieving with us," Sadler said.

"She loved so many of you and I know you loved her too."

As a 23-year-old from Grand Prairie, Texas, McKibbin impressed the American Idol judges with soulful performances of songs by Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks and a stirring cover of Alanna Myles' song Black Velvet.

Gracious in defeat, McKibbin tearfully hugged her fellow contestants when she was voted out.

"What an incredible journey this has been," McKibbin said before leaving the stage. "Just to know that so many people support me and enjoy what I do means more than anything in the world."

The often acid-tongued Simon Cowell was equally gracious.

"Reality check: Out of 10,000 people, you are third. This is not a time for tears," he told McKibbin. "You've got a career ahead of you."

In a statement, American Idol sent its condolences to McKibbin's family and friends.

"Nikki McKibbin was an incredible talent and we are deeply saddened by the news of her passing," the TV show said in a statement posted on Twitter.

"She was part of our American Idol family and will be truly missed."