NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, February 22, 2016, 8:45 AM
A 24-year-old beauty pageant champion and TV news anchor died Monday, one week after she was critically injured in a crash, her friends announced.
Cara McCollum, who won the Miss New Jersey pageant in 2013 and participated in the Miss America competition, died at about 4:30 a.m., according to the Facebook page “Prayers for Cara,” which has been posting updates about McCollum’s condition.
“Before she died, Cara made the selfless decision to donate her organs. At this very moment, she is saving lives,” the group wrote.
Cara McCollum won the Miss New Jersey pageant in 2013 and participated in the Miss America competition.
“Although it’s not the miracle that we first 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.”
McCollum was critically injured Feb. 15 after losing control of her Ford Mustang along Route 55 in Salem County, State Police said.
McCollum — who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt — was believed to be driving too fast on the rain-slicked roadway when the crash occurred. Her car spun off the right side of the road and struck a number of trees before coming to rest at the bottom of an embankment.
She was later transported to Cooper Health Systems, where she underwent surgery.
Friends and relatives held out hope that McCollum would recover from her injuries, but her condition worsened.
In addition to her pageant appearances, Cara McCollum also served as a TV news anchor at southern New Jersey’s SNJ Today.
The Arkansas native and Princeton University grad became a news anchor and spent about six months working at SNJ Today, a Millville-based news provider, following her pageant days.
SNJ Today released a statement about McCollum’s death Monday.
“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,” SNJ Today said in a statement. “We will miss her terribly.”
McCollum is survived by her parents and brother, as well as her boyfriend Keith Jones, an anchor at NBC station WCAU in Philadelphia. Following McCollum’s death, Jones reflected on her life in a Facebook post, sharing images of the couple’s happy times together.
“Words fall short of describing the pain, but I’m eternally grateful and blessed for the time I spent with Cara,” he wrote. “Her enormous heart enriched my life and changed me forever.”