CALIFORNIA, Pa. – Police report that a California University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball player who died in her dorm inhaled chewing gum in her sleep.
Shanice Clark, a 21-year-old senior from Ontario, Canada, was found unresponsive in her Vulcan Village apartment around 3 a.m. Jan. 18 and was taken to Monongahela Valley Hospital, where she was pronounced dead about an hour later, according to the Observer-Reporter.
Clark was a communications major and a 6-foot forward on the university’s basketball team who was redshirted after playing about two dozen games last season, ESPN reports.
The “preliminary report from the attending medical personnel was that the patient aspirated on chewing gum while she was sleeping,” according to a statement by California Borough Police Chief Rick Encapera cited by the Toronto Sun.
University officials said they were “deeply saddened” by Clark’s death.
“Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family and friends of Shanice Clark,” Cal U Athletics director Karen Hjerpe said in a statement, the Sun reports. “Shanice was a bright student and talented player. Her smile and personality will be missed.”
Clark transferred to Cal U from Sante Fe College in Gainesville, Fla., where she played two seasons. Before that, she was a star player at Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute in Scarborough – a district of Toronto, Canada.
“On behalf of California University of Pennsylvania, I extend my deepest sympathy to all of Shanice’s family and friends,” U Cal president Geraldine M. Jones wrote in a statement. “She will be missed by her teammates and coaches, her classmates, and by the entire campus community.”
Several others who commented on the story online also offered their condolences.
“So tragic … and terrifying,” Toni S. posted to Syracuse.com. “I think we’ve all fallen asleep with chewing gum in our mouths. Poor, poor young girl … how devastating for her family. RIP Shanice Clark.”
“As a kid, my mom told me a million times never chew gum or suck on candy if I’m in a position to fall asleep because I could choke on it and die. No joke,” chapstickgrrrl wrote. “It has stuck with me my whole life. This poor family of this girl must be beside themselves. She was beautiful with a bright future ahead of her. RIP Shanice.”
“May her soul rest in peace!” Anneika Ananbendigo posted to ESPN.
“Incredibly tragic. I have never heard of death being caused this way. Literally, this poor soul drowned in her chewing gum. Unbelievably shocking and sad,” Taylor G. Moore added.