Former Miss New Jersey dies after being injured in car crash

PITTSGROVE TWP., N.J. (WPVI) -- A former Miss New Jersey who competed in the 2013 Miss America pageant has died from injuries suffered in a car crash, her family said Monday.

The announcement of Cara McCollum's death was made in a Facebook post that said, "Cara passed away this morning. Her family was with her in the operating room, and she died peacefully at 4:31 a.m. Before she died, Cara made the selfless decision to donate her organs. At this very moment, she is saving lives."

McCollum was critically injured last week when her convertible spun off a highway and hit a tree.

She was traveling northbound on Route 55 in Pittsgrove Township on Tuesday when her car veered off the road and struck a tree, then spun again and hit two more trees before ending up in an embankment, police said.

The 24-year-old from Margate was alone in her vehicle and was not wearing a seat belt.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

State police say McCollum appeared to have been driving too fast for conditions on the wet roadway. They do not believe alcohol or drugs were a factor. The car's air bags deployed.

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Karen Rogers interviewed Cara McCollum in 2013 before the Miss America pageant.

An Arkansas native who graduated from Princeton University last summer, McCollum won the 2013 Miss New Jersey pageant. At the time, she said she planned to advocate for youth literacy.

Action News' Karen Rogers interviewed McCollum in 2013 as she was preparing for the 2014 Miss America pageant.

It was the year the iconic event returned to Atlantic City.

"It's a great year to be Miss New Jersey, because I am the first one that will be back in Boardwalk Hall. So, a little bit of added pressure, but I'm just so pleased to have my home crowd here," McCollum said at the time.

The Miss New Jersey education foundation released a statement on Monday, saying Cara McCollum "was an exceptional young woman and will be remembered as a loving soul."

Most recently, McCollum was an anchor on SNJ Today, a TV news show serving the southern Jersey area.

"You can't make sense of it. you can only focus on the joy that she brought to people and she was taken from us way too soon," said SNJ Sports Director Mike Frankel.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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