FILE – In this Sept. 14, 2013 file photo Miss New Jersey Cara McCollum displays her shoes during the Miss America Shoe Parade at the Atlantic City, N.J. boardwalk. McCollum was critically injured when her convertible spun off a highway and hit a tree, state police said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
A former Miss America contestant died early Monday, a week after her car spun off a New Jersey highway and crashed into trees.
Cara McCollum died at Cooper University Hospital, according to Frank DiMauro, chief operating officer of the TV station where she worked, and a Facebook message posted by her family.
Her family said in the Facebook post that the 24-year-old from Margate died with her family by her side in an operating room, and that her organs were donated.
“We’ve prayed constantly for a miracle, and we believe God has answered our prayers. Although it’s not the miracle that we first envisioned, it’s a miracle nonetheless,” the family said. “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. … We all will miss her now that she’s gone.”
Her family posted a video of McCollum performing a version of “Cups” 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.
The Arkansas native graduated from Princeton University and was an anchor on SNJ Today, a news show serving the southern Jersey area.
She was dating Keith Jones, a TV anchor for Philadelphia’s NBC affiliate.
“Please accept our sincerest thanks for your heartfelt prayers,” Jones wrote on Facebook. “Words fall short of describing the pain, but I’m eternally grateful and blessed for the time I spent with Cara. Her enormous heart enriched my life and changed me forever.”
McCollum was alone in her vehicle 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.
State police say McCollum appeared to have been driving too fast for conditions on the wet road. They do not believe alcohol or drugs were a factor. The driver’s side front air bag in her car deployed during the crash.