Cara McCollum, a former Miss New Jersey who was injured last week in a car crash, died from her injuries early Monday morning.
According to a post on the Prayers for Cara Facebook page, McCollum, 24, died shortly after 4:30 a.m. surrounded by her family.
"Cara passed away this morning. Her family was with her in the operating room, and she died peacefully at 4:31a.m.," Prayers for Cara posted. "Before she died, Cara made the selfless decision to donate her organs. At this very moment, she is saving lives."
"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 post continued.
I kissed her for the first time moments after this first selfie was taken on our first night date in front of our first Moon Tree in Philly's Washington Square Park 2 years ago. The love that evolved and grew was nothing short of magical. We would go on to see 12 Moon Trees across the country, taking pics like this, intending to see all 60 in our lifetime together. We had plans to grow our own roots. I love @caramccollum_tv to the moon and back. Though she sadly passed away this morning, my "Béshe" still provides me endless love, warmth, encouragement, purpose, and fulfillment. Words fall short of describing the pain and grief, but her company was a joyous blessing. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. I was holding her hand to the very end. Before she died, Cara made the selfless decision to donate her organs. At this very moment, she's saving lives. Our families have prayed constantly for a miracle and we believe God has answered our prayers. Although it's not the miracle we envisioned, it's a miracle nonetheless. In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. Cara taught me how you make a living by what you get, and you make a life by what you give. I couldn't be more proud of her. My life is forever changed. I also couldn't be more thankful for the blessing of her company, even though it was short, considering our many huge plans. Please accept my sincerest thanks for your heartfelt prayers. They mean the world to me. I love you forever, Cara. #unum
McCollum, an Arkansas native, won the title of Miss New Jersey in 2013 while a student at Princeton University. Most recently, she was working as the lead anchor on “SNJ Today,” a South Jersey news show.
"Whether you had the privilege of knowing her or if you enjoyed her newscasts during her all too brief time with us, you know that her smile, determination and sincerity made her a beloved individual," SNJ Today president Ken Pustizzi said in a statement. "Cara showed warmth to everyone she met. She was a part of our news team family and we are gratified to have worked with her – even for such a short time. We will miss her terribly."
McCollum had just finished recording the Monday evening news on Feb. 15 before she was involved in the fatal crash.
"Though she sadly passed away this morning, my "Béshe" still provides me endless love, warmth, encouragement, purpose, and fulfillment. Words fall short of describing the pain and grief, but her company was a joyous blessing. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. I was holding her hand to the very end," wrote NBC Philly news anchor Keith Jones, McCollum's boyfriend at the time of her death, on Instagram, along with a picture of the couple on their first date. " I love you forever, Cara."
Tributes poured in for McCollum and thousands of people offered their condolences on social media as the news of her passing spread Monday.
"Very sad to learn of the passing of Miss NJ 2013 Cara McCollum," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tweeted. "Thoughts & prayers to her family, friends & the @MissAmericaOrg community."
"She was an extraordinary young woman, and we extend our deepest condolences and continued prayers to her family and friends,"Josh Randle, Chief Operating Officer of the Miss America Organization, said in a statement on the Miss America Organization's Facebook.
"The world lost a beautiful person," Philly sports anchor Jillian Mele tweeted.