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Newton North grad dies in cheerleading accident

Posted April 17, 2008 04:06 PM

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

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29 comments so far...
  1. Tragic. My condolences to Ms. Chang's family.

    Posted by PC April 17, 08 04:52 PM
  1. This is a REALLY insensitive article. A young woman died and it's written up like a dime store novel.

    Posted by tom maclaughlan April 17, 08 05:23 PM
  1. This is a senseless death resulting from risks taken for vanity and nothing else. It's sad. Cheerleading competitions are not worth loss of life no matter how meaningful the contests might seem. Poor girl. Otherwise, I'm sure she had a lifetime of love, accomplishment and prosperity awaiting her.

    Posted by Michael April 17, 08 05:24 PM
  1. It took the DCU staff over 20 minutes to get an ambulance inside the building. Even though 911 was called immediately, apparently they could not respond to the accident until the DCU center called personally!!! That poor girl, lye on the matt in obvious distress with nurses and aid surrounding her for close to half hour because before they arrived!!!

    Posted by BOB a Parent from another gym April 17, 08 05:39 PM
  1. I was at that competition and that was the most shocking and terrible thing I have ever witnessed. The most troubling thing about this event was the emergency staff was no where to be found. Several girls were injured that day and on each and every injury the medical staff was not immediately and readily available. I can't say that Lauren would have been saved, but the staff at the DCU Center was absent from their duties.

    Posted by J. Hennessey April 17, 08 08:31 PM
  1. I was at that competition. A girl on my team was also sent to the hospital. In fact, UMass Memorial Medical Center Alone had 12 cheerleaders in their Emergency room while my teammate was there. I felt awful when I heard about this girl. My cheerleading squad is making a card for her. My prayers are going out for her and her family. I hope for this to never happen again, and I'll probably never cheer again without thinking of her.

    Posted by Cheerleader in Mourning April 17, 08 10:02 PM
  1. I was at this competition and she wasn't kicked during a tumbling pass. She was the back spot for a stunt and the flyer came down wrong and her head hit her chest. She had received a similar injury earlier that day at practice but the second hit is what was the worst. What everyone needs to learn about this incident is that if you're injured you cannot cheer let alone compete. Honestly, cheerleaders need to take their injuries more seriously and not worry about disappointing the coach. You cant just "walk it off".

    R.I.P. Lauren. you were a great cheerleader

    Posted by nnhs cheer April 17, 08 10:29 PM
  1. Sounds like a cover up here. When is the investigation going to start?

    Posted by Eva April 17, 08 10:31 PM
  1. RIP, Lauren... We'll miss you and your beautiful smile.

    Posted by Anne April 17, 08 10:48 PM
  1. I can't believe she is really gone..I will miss her greatly.

    R.I.P Lauren
    You will never be forgotten

    Posted by Lauren April 17, 08 10:53 PM
  1. I am sure the person who wrote this article does not know a thing about cheerleading but I must say their statement, "But when the jumble of bodies on the mat" was incorrect. I was there and did not see a mishap or a kick to the body. As a matter of fact a great routine was being performed. Also, saying that 10 min towards the end of the routine is when this girl was kicked is also a false statement. The routine was less than 2:30.

    No matter what it is a very sad tragic accident and my heart is sad for the family and teammates. May Lauren rest in peace.

    Posted by CheerMom April 17, 08 11:24 PM
  1. I was at the competition watching my daughter compete with her cheerleading team. My wife who is a nurse went up on the mat to try and help Lauren immediately following the accident. There was NO "jumble of bodies!" She was inadvertently kicked in the chest/throat area during a stunt and stumbled to the edge of the mat by herself where she collapsed. I resent the poetic license you took to make your introduction to this tragic story seem more like a narrative story than a news article. A young woman was fatally injured in front of hundreds of other young athletes most of whom were teenagers or pre-teens. This is not an opportunity to flash your writing skills... just report the facts!

    Posted by Rick April 17, 08 11:58 PM
  1. How can this happen? The hospital is across the street from the DCU? What did the trainer on site do?

    Posted by Confused April 18, 08 12:54 AM
  1. I knew Lauren. She was on the open team and I was on the senior 2 team. She was such a sweetheart, she encouraged me to get my back tuck. Her smile warmed the gym up..everyone loved her. I denied the whole thing to myself..but now I know she really left us. I didn't cheer this yr, but she didn't deserve to leave the way she did..no one does. God himself has his ways and they are very shocking. I'll never forget her smile and her enthusasium. Wow life comes and goes..I'm going to cheer this season and I'm going to dedicate my all, like she has. R.I.P LAUREN! You'll be missed by everyone you smiled with.

    Posted by Kateennia Antoine April 18, 08 04:13 AM
  1. It's just really sad to think about something like this...

    Posted by agatha garfunkalump April 18, 08 03:21 PM
  1. Michael... What do you mean by "This is a senseless death resulting from risks taken for vanity and nothing else." being a cheerleader has nothing to do with vanity.

    Posted by Brittany April 20, 08 06:05 PM
  1. As a mother of a daughter who has cheered for many years, it is tragic when any child gets hurt during a sporting event. We as parents and the girls themselves understand the risks involved, but the girls push themselves to do more difficult stunts and tumble runs, because they are passionate about cheering and competing. It is difficult to watch your child during a competition, and pray to god that neither your own or any of their team mates get hurt, never thinking such a tragic thing like this would ever happen. My thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time.

    Posted by SMC April 21, 08 07:16 AM
  1. Although we didn't know you Lauren, you are in the heart, thoughts, and prayers of the cheerleaders from Queen of Peace High School, North Arlington, NJ.

    Posted by QPHS Cheerleaders April 21, 08 07:19 AM
  1. Our thoughts and prayers are with this family.

    Posted by Montana State Cheer Team April 21, 08 04:03 PM
  1. We can only pray for her soul and her family and learn from this tragedy to protect other cheer athletes. This is not a sport of vanity. Traditional cheerleading may have the stereotype of vanity, but times have changed and todays cheerleaders are feirce, trained athletes. There are unfortunate tragedies in every sport. The cheer world has suffered a great loss wiht Lauren and what you all should know is that cheerleaders train hard, compete intensley, but most of all they stick together. They all feel this loss together.

    Posted by Lisa April 21, 08 08:00 PM
  1. Micheal (post above). No death nor serious injury is ever wanted in ANY sport but to imply that a cheerleading competition is somehow less valid than any other sport is truly a statement of your ignorance.
    Yes, you clearly come off as saying: well at least if she died playing hockey or a real sport - it would be "worth it".
    No need to respond. We don't need to read any more of your drivel.

    Posted by Coach April 21, 08 09:48 PM
  1. Lauren was in a study hall class with me at Newton North. She was a couple years behind me but I somewhat knew her and talked with her quite often. I was on the Varsity Football team and I think she was JV Cheerleading then in 2003, and I am just shocked that this horrible tragedy happened. Lauren and her family will be in my prayers.

    Posted by Rogan April 22, 08 12:50 AM
  1. It was a freak accident and those happen at any time. A kid could be hit in the chest with a baseball and die and it wouldn't be blamed on the sport or how intense the sport has become. Or someone could be riding a bike and hit a curb and fly over the handlebars and die. Freak accidents happen all over. My daughters both have cheered since 1st grade and my youngest is a flyer and there are times that I hold my breath and I always worry but they both love it. It is very sad that Lauren lost her life doing what she loved and I feel for her family, I couldn't imagine the loss of a child but what would comfort me it that she died doing what she loved.

    Posted by Rose April 22, 08 04:13 PM
  1. I really feel for the family. I have a girl who is cheerleading in Canada, and they just won the Regional Competition. It is very hard to hear about this accident. She was so young!

    I have goose bumps.
    Québec, Canada

    Posted by Christine April 23, 08 02:53 PM
  1. I am a high school and All-star cheerleader, and hearing about this terrible accident makes me really notice how dangerous this sport truly is.
    I am so sorry for Ms.Changs family. you will always be in my prayers.

    To everyone else, Please dont blame the sport for this, things happen.
    No one is to blame.

    ~Fellow Cheerleader.

    Posted by Michelle May 6, 08 02:10 PM
  1. Wow Michael....keep your comments to yourself because you obviously have no intelligence. Vanity...far from it. These are all around talented athletes, it's not sideline cheering with pompoms and makeup any more. They are dancers, gymnasts, they are probably the most talented sport out there. Turn on ESPN once in in a while and take it all in. It is an unfortunate freak accident that can happen in any sport, not just cheerleading. With a child who was a flyer for several years and now a backspot, I hold my breath and pray for a routine with no injuries to everyone, everytime. Unfortunately, they happen, but seldom as extreme as Lauren's. From what I am reading, you were an amazing girl, as well as athlete, and my thoughts and prayers are with your loved ones. Rest in Peace Angel!

    Posted by joann May 8, 08 09:51 AM
  1. Very sad for her family and team. Also, I hope a wake up call for participants, parents and coaches. But from the responses on here, I doubt it.

    What other "sport" has 12 participants land in the emergency room in a one day event? I've seen some pretty rough soccer matches but none with those kind of injury rates.

    Posted by Mary June 26, 08 04:44 PM
  1. I agree with Michael as far as this is unnecessary. Do parents really understand that this is turned so competitive and has made it so dangerous. Coaches qualifications are pathetic. Training is nothing anyone can get certified even those who are in horrible shape themselves. I believe that winning has become so important that safety is not a priority.

    Posted by cooper333 November 8, 08 05:30 PM
  1. WOW!!!!! there was one commentup there that just shocked me...she didnt die for vanity or populartiy she died doing a sport she loved! plus it was an accedent....if i had to die it would be doing a sport that i loved and had a heart for

    Posted by victoria April 15, 09 02:48 PM
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