NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WFSB/CNN) - Family, friends and coaches are devastated after the death of a 20-year-old college gymnast.
Melanie Coleman, a junior at Southern Connecticut State University, died on a Sunday, two days after suffering a spinal injury in a training accident.
“I coached her close to 10 years, four to five days a week, three hours plus, for each workout. We were very close,” said Thomas Alberti of New Era Gymnastics.
Alberti said Coleman’s death is devastating.
“She loved gymnastics her entire life,” he said. “You can’t blame gymnastics, the equipment or the coaching.”
Coleman, a 20-year-old junior, was practicing on the uneven bars Friday when she slipped off, suffering a serious spinal injury.
On Sunday, she passed away at Yale New Haven Hospital, with her family taking to Facebook saying: “Tonight, heaven has gained a beautiful angel. Rest in peace, Melanie. We love you, are blessed and thankful you brighten all the lives you touched. In Melanie’s final act of unselfishness, she was able to provide life to others.”
“People from all over Connecticut have been reaching out to me, and many of them knew Melanie because she was such a high-level gymnast, she was well known through the state of Connecticut,” Alberti said.
He said even with her college commitments, she was still a part of her old gym family, coaching younger kids as a staff member.
Last year, the nursing major was named a Scholastic All-American by the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association.
In a statement, her current college coach said, “We are heartbroken and stunned by Melanie’s passing. She was an incredibly hard worker and a sweet-spirited young woman. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to her family at this time. The SCSU gymnastics team will miss her greatly though she will always be with us.”
It’s something Alberti says will be true at his gym as well, where Coleman’s name and her lengthy accomplishments hang high up on the wall.
“To remember Melanie is to remember her joy and how happy that the sport would make her and how much she loved teaching the children and giving what she had to make others better,” he said.
As of Tuesday, a GoFundMe page created for Coleman has raised more than $50,000.
The university has been offering counseling services to help students cope.