Former Miss America contestant dies week after car crash
Feb. 22, 2016
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A former Miss America contestant critically injured when her car spun off a wet highway and crashed into trees last week died on Monday.
Ex-Miss New Jersey Cara McCollum, who worked at a TV station and was known for her efforts in public service, died with her family by her side in a hospital operating room, and her organs were donated, the family said.
"We've prayed constantly for a miracle, and we believe God has answered our prayers," the family said on Facebook. "Although it's not the miracle that we first envisioned, it's a miracle nonetheless."
McCollum was 24 years old and lived in Margate. Her family posted a video of her performing a version of a "Cups" cover made popular by Anna Kendrick in the film "Pitch Perfect."
The song includes the lyrics "you're gonna miss me when I'm gone" and was performed by Miss New York Kira Kazantsev when she won the Miss America pageant in September 2014. McCollum competed in the previous year's pageant after winning the 2013 Miss New Jersey title.
McCollum, a Forrest City, Arkansas, native, graduated from Princeton University and was an anchor on "SNJ Today," a news show serving the southern Jersey area on Channel 22 in Cumberland County. Her death also was confirmed by the station's chief operating officer, Frank DiMauro.
Former Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande said McCollum was "an incredibly giving human being."
Casagrande said McCollum volunteered to help an institute that Casagrande ran for high school students interested in public service. The students soon adopted a project of McCollum's that presented books as birthday presents to first- and second-graders in Asbury Park.
The little kids are going to receive birthday books this year thanks to McCollum, said Casagrande, a Republican.
"She clearly was someone who just gave back to the community and saw that as part of her duty," Casagrande said. "It was unusual to see someone with as many gifts as she had and have that big of a heart."
McCollum was dating Keith Jones, a TV anchor for Philadelphia's NBC affiliate.
"Words fall short of describing the pain, but I'm eternally grateful and blessed for the time I spent with Cara," Jones wrote on Facebook. "Her enormous heart enriched my life and changed me forever."
McCollum was alone and was not wearing a seatbelt when her Mustang veered off Route 55 in Pittsgrove Township and struck a tree, then spun again and hit two more trees before ending up in an embankment, police said.
McCollum appeared to have been driving too fast for conditions on the wet road, police said.
This story has been corrected to show that McCollum competed in the Miss America pageant the year before Kira Kazantsev.