Melanie Coleman, a student-athlete at Southern Connecticut State University, sustained the injury on Friday, Nov. 8

By Joelle Goldstein
November 11, 2019 11:01 PM
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Southern Connecticut State University

A university in Southern Connecticut is mourning the loss of one of their student-athletes after she was involved in a freak accident while practicing her sport and tragically died two days later.

Melanie Coleman, a junior on Southern Connecticut State University’s gymnastics team, was training on Friday, Nov. 8 when she sustained a serious injury, the university announced on their website.

The Milford native, 20, who was working towards a degree in nursing, sadly died just two days later at Yale-New Haven hospital on Sunday, Nov. 10.

“This has been devastating to her coaches and teammates and we hope to support them in this very difficult time,” SCSU’s Director of Athletics Jay Moran said. “Melanie was a very bright student, an excellent athlete and involved member of the Southern Connecticut community. The entire Southern athletics family is greatly saddened by her loss.”

“We are heartbroken and stunned by Melanie’s passing,” added Coleman’s head coach Mary Fredericks. “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.”

Coleman reportedly slipped on the uneven bars at New Era Training Facility, a rented, off-campus gymnastics facility in Hamden, and suffered upper-body injuries, according to the Hartford Courant.

Though her primary event was the balance beam, Coleman often practiced and performed on the uneven bars, university spokesman Patrick Dilger told the outlet.

Dilger said the college has had a rental contract with New Era since 2003 and that the facility has always held the “highest standard of safety.” He also added that the freak accident occurred during a “routine training exercise” and that Coleman was treated by her CPR-certified coach before emergency personnel arrived.

“We’re looking into all aspects of this, obviously. At this stage, it looks like all protocols were followed,” Dilger explained, noting how the coaches always act as spotters for the gymnasts during practice.

Thomas Alberti, the owner of New Era who coached Coleman for close to 10 years, called her death “an unexpected accident with a tragic result.”

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Coleman was a graduate of Jonathan Law High School, where she also earned team captain, most valuable player, and all-state accolades. She joined the SCSU Owls in 2017-18 as a freshman and competed alongside her older sister Tiffany, until Tiffany’s graduation last year, according to the university.

During her college campaign, Coleman was a standout student-athlete, garnering All-America Scholar-Athlete honors by USA Gymnastics and Scholastic All-American recognition by Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association.

She also gave back to her community, volunteering as a youth instructor at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden.

“Melanie was an extraordinary young lady that positively touched all that knew her,” Coleman’s former head coach Jerry Nelson said in a statement on the university’s website. “Melanie was a true team player, a hard worker and a true pleasure to coach. I’m extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to coach her.”

In the wake of her tragic death, a GoFundMe page and MealTrain has been set up for Coleman’s family — including her parents and four siblings — to help them deal with this “unfathomable loss.”

Since the GoFundMe was created on Sunday, over $32,000 has been raised for the Coleman family.

“Melanie gained her angel wings tonight and was able to give life to others,” the GoFundMe page reads. “The support from this page and the meal train is graciously received by the family. Please continue to share these two pages within the community as the family grapples with the unconscionable realities of Melly’s passing.”