WESTFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey church was packed Saturday, as family and friends said goodbye to Caitlin Nelson.

The college student died last Sunday after choking on pancakes during a sorority fundraiser.

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reports, there are few words that can justify such a death, but those who loved the 20-year-old tried to find them in between heavy sobs at her funeral in Westfield.

“She was amazing. She had so much passion for everything she did. It was a pleasure knowing her,” friend Lisa Tricarico said.

Nelson grew up in Clark Township and was studying social work at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. Her graduation was just a year away.

Police say during a fraternity and sorority-sponsored pancake eating competition on March 30, Nelson started to choke. Nearby nursing students tried helping before first responders brought her to the hospital, but three days later she was dead.

“Her airway was closed, and it was difficult for officers responding to establish an airway,” Fairfield Police Lt. Robert Kalamaras said.

Nelson’s big, brown eyes first appeared on CBS2 in 2005, when she talked about her father, James Nelson. The Port Authority police officer died in the September 11 attacks.

“He died in the World Trade Center, and he saved a lot of lives,” she said in 2005.

Now 12 years later, officers stood at attention for the family, following yet another senseless loss.

Nelson’s friends and family asked for privacy as they filed out of the church, Bauman reported. Most were too heartbroken to say anything at all. Immeasurable pain painted the faces of her young friends now left trying to make sense of the loss.


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