University of Miami Student Dies in Everglades Boat Crash One Day After Graduation

"I will always remember her big hair, her big voice, and most of all her big heart," Ellie Goldenberg's friend and fellow actor said

University of Miami student Elizabeth Goldenberg tragically died just one day after graduation when she and several members of her family were involved in an airboat crash over the weekend in the Florida Everglades.

The 22-year-old musical theater major, known to friends as "Ellie," and four others were ejected from the boat on Saturday just before noon, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Rob Klepper confirmed to PEOPLE. Elizabeth died from her injuries at Kendall Regional Medical Center, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Elizabeth's 20-year-old sister Dana was also hospitalized with minor injuries, the outlet reports. Her parents were not injured in the accident.

The other person on the airboat was Steve George Gagne, 52, who has previously worked as an airboat captain.

"We loved her, we miss her. It's a tremendous loss to the world that she was taken so young," Elizabeth's mother, Renee Flax-Goldenberg, told the Sun Sentinel. "I'm a mourning mother … and it's a criminal investigation, so it wouldn't be appropriate for us to speak about the circumstances in which she died."


The Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, where Elizabeth performed numerous times during her time at the University of Miami, shared a tribute on Facebook to the budding actress, who graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in fine arts.

"With the heaviest of hearts, we write to share our loss of Ellie Goldenberg, a member of the Theatre Arts BFA Musical Theatre class of 2017, in a devastating accident this weekend," the post read. "Ellie was a shining star and an integral member of our community. This news is a terrible shock to everyone, and we will miss her more than can be put to words."

A memorial service was held Monday at the theatre and other services would take place in Elizabeth's hometown of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, this week, according to the post.

Elizabeth was also this year's recipient of the Friends of Theatre Award, "one of the highest honors bestowed by the Department of Theatre Arts in acknowledgement of her incredible talent and unlimited potential in acting," according to the college.

"I will always remember her big hair, her big voice, and most of all her big heart. She was not only my mentor, she was my best friend," Branden Holzer, who starred alongside Elizabeth in the school's production of Spring Awakening this year, told The Miami Hurricane, the student newspaper. "She held me to a high standard and saw what I could achieve even when I couldn't. I am grateful every day for the time we had together."

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