The owner of a gym where an accomplished collegiate gymnast died in a freak accident was left shocked and remembered the woman as a role model for younger athletes.
Tom Alberti, the owner of New Era Gymnastics in Hamden, Conn., told NBC Connecticut on Tuesday he was not at the gym Sunday when Melanie Coleman slipped off the uneven bars during practice and sustained fatal injuries.
“She was looked up to by every gymnast in the gym,” Alberti told the station. “They all looked up to her, they wanted to be with her, they loved when she was teaching them. So, she was very well-liked by everyone, staff, gymnasts, parents, everybody involved”
He told the New Haven Register, “It was totally unexpected in its occurrence and its outcome.”
According to the Connecticut Post, more than $50,000 has been donated to a GoFundMe used to help the family of the Southern Connecticut State University gymnast. The family released a statement to WTNH-TV about her death.
“We are confident that her spirit, laughter, and humor will live on through the ones who loved her most, as well as through the gift of life to those who needed it most through organ donation,” the statement read.
“We are humbled by the outpouring support from our Milford community (our small town with a big heart) and beyond. She will be sadly and deeply missed by all those who crossed paths with her. The family asks for privacy during this time of healing.”
Coleman received honors as a leader in the sport and in the classroom, the university said. Last year, she was recognized by both USA Gymnastics and the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association as an All-America Scholar-Athlete and Scholastic All-American, respectively.
“We are heartbroken and stunned by Melanie's passing,” head coach Mary Fredericks said. “She was an incredibly hard worker and a sweet-spirited young woman.”
When not competing or studying, Coleman volunteered as a youth instructor at New Era Gymnastics, the university said.
The university has offered counseling services for students seeking support following Coleman’s death.
Fox News' Stephen Sorace and the Associated Press contributed to this report.