A Texas community is in mourning and hoping for answers to the drowning death of an experienced 13-year-old swimmer who died at an aquatics center surrounded by her teammates.
Elise Cerami was a member of the Nadadores Navy Elite team and was in the pool at a school aquatics facility at about sunrise Monday when her fellow swimmers noticed she was underwater and unresponsive.
Coach Bill Christiansen immediately started CPR and worked until paramedics arrived. Elise was taken by air ambulance to two different hospitals, but did not survive.
Christiansen, 51, collapsed shortly after Elise was whisked away. He was taken to Baylor Regional Medical Center suffering heart attack symptoms, CBS affiliate KTVT-TV reported. He underwent surgery and is expected to fully recover.
Meanwhile, grieving friends and family members would like to know what caused such an advanced swimmer to lose her life. Late Wednesday, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office ruled the girl died from an accidental drowning.
Friend Soleil Singh fought back tears trying to explain what made Elise special. “She meant a lot,” the girl said, struggling for words. “So much fun to be around. She always pushed me to do my best.”
Hundreds gathered Monday night outside a Methodist church to pay tribute to Elise.
“We all love and respect her a lot,” said teammate Griffin Rey.
A Celebration of Life memorial service will be held Thursday evening in the Carroll High School Auditorium to honor Elise's memory. Her coaches, teachers and friends are slated to speak.
Funeral services are planned for Saturday morning.
In addition, the Cerami family intends to start a scholarship in memory of Elise. Checks can be made out to Carroll ISD with "Elise Cerami Memorial" in the memo line.