The cheerleading stunt just went wrong. It's not clear how. But when the jumble of bodies on the mat Sunday at the Minuteman Cheerleading Championships in Worcester sorted itself out, competitor Lauren Chang was down.
She died a day later.
The accident occured at the DCU Center Sunday, where the 20-year-old Newton North High School graduate performed with her team, Energy Cheer, along with more than 60 other teams. Few would talk about the incident, though rumors and speculation were rampant throughout the cheer community following her death.
Chang's co-ed team -- which trains at Energized Athletics in Watertown -- had been scheduled to take the mat at 7:10 p.m. The accident occurred about 10 minutes later, near the end of their routine.
A Wednesday autopsy ruled Chang's death an accident, according to Terrel Harris, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety. He said Chang died of "complications" after air leaked into Chang's lungs and collapsed them "following a kick to the chest."
Worcester police had little to add.
"Apparently, she was accidentally kicked in the chest by a tumbler . . . during this cheerleading event," said spokesman Sergeant Kerry Hazelhurst. A report of the incident, he said, states that Chang was taken to St. Vincent's hospital and later transfered to UMass Memorial Medical Center. She died there at 1:05 p.m. on Monday.
Mike Pare, president of the Florida-based Spirit Cheer event and cheerleading camp company that organized the event, said he was on the side of the performance area and didn't see much of the accident.
"I think we're really in shock and just sad about the whole incident," he said when contacted by phone Wednesday. "We just feel very sorry for the family."
-- Erin Ailworth