An All-American college gymnast from Connecticut died after slipping off the uneven bars during practice and suffering a spinal-cord injury, her family and school said Monday.
Southern Connecticut State University student athlete Melanie Coleman, 20, was gravely hurt in what family friends described as a “tragic freak accident” while practicing Friday and succumbed to her injuries at Yale New Haven Hospital on Sunday.
Coleman’s grieving mother described her daughter and the young woman’s four siblings — including two gymnast sisters — as “inseparable.
“She’s from a very large, loving family — there’s seven of us, we were the Coleman seven,” said the mom, Susan Coleman. “We spent every day together for the past 20 years.
“We’re going to leave an empty space in our photos for her” from now on, the mom said.
Melanie Coleman, a nursing major at the New Haven college, was practicing on the uneven bars at the New Era Gymnastics facility in Hamden, where her team trains once a week, when she fell.
She also volunteered at the facility.
“The injury occurred after she slipped off of the bar,” Coleman’s former coach and the gym’s owner, Thomas Alberti, told the Hartford Courant. “It was an unexpected accident with a tragic result.”
He added to NBC, “She was looked up to by every gymnast in the gym.
“They all looked up to her, they wanted to be with her. They loved when she was teaching them.’’
Coleman had been named a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American this year and previously made it to the top level of the USA Junior Olympics Program.
She graduated from Jonathan Law High School in Milford, where she was captain of the gymnastics team and named All-State.
Her Facebook page featured a photo of her with her siblings — and masses of gymnastic snapshots.
A GoFundMe page set up for the college athlete had raised more than $32,800 for the family by Monday afternoon.
It suggested she was an organ donor in death.
“Melanie gained her angel wings tonight and was able to give life to others,” according to a posting by organizer Anna Andrich on Sunday.
Calling the young woman “Melly,” Andrich added, “Please continue to pray for the entire Coleman family as they experience this unfathomable loss.”
University President Joe Bertolino said in a statement, “Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss.’’
The school had photos of her on its Web site’s home page along with a post announcing her “passing’’ and telling people where they could contribute in her name.