Family and friends are remembering a college student from St. Paul who died while traveling in South America, describing her as a lively young woman who had a way with words.
Whether she was hiking in the mountains of South America or waging a verbal battle in a debate tournament, those who knew 20-year-old Tamar Kaplan say she was extremely intelligent and full of life. Her adventurous spirit took her halfway around the world, but an accident stopped the vivacious young woman from ever coming back home.
"It's been a horrible day," said Amy Cram Helwich. "It's hard to believe that someone so young and vibrant is no longer with us."
According to her CaringBridge site, Kaplan had recently finished studying in Ecuador and was traveling through Peru and Bolivia with a friend when she was seriously injured in a car accident.
At first, doctors thought Kaplan had suffered a broken leg, collarbone and partially-collapsed lung, but her injuries turned out to be much worse.
After spending three days in the hospital, Kaplan's father arrived to ride with her on a 7-hour ambulance ride to Bolivia's largest city; however, her condition worsened about half-way there and she died in her sleep just before midnight on Sunday.
"She was brilliant," Cram Helwich said. "Driven, ambitious -- always that thirst for knowledge, wanting to delve deeper into a subject. Debate was a perfect outlet for her."
Cram Helwich told FOX 9 News that Kaplan won the state high school debate tournament and placed second in a national tournament in New York.
"It was just great watching her," she recalled. "She was fierce in the debate rounds, was great about dominating the conversation."
Kaplan was also remembered as someone who did her best to give back. She mentored and taught young children at a summer debate camp at Augsburg College.
A spokesperson for St. Paul Public Schools told FOX 9 News Kaplan took college-level classes in high school and graduated in the top 10 of her class in 2010. She was a junior at Claremont McKenna College, where she was pursuing a major in both political science and philosophy.