South Florida

South Florida Gymnastics Coach Dies in Hit-and-Run in Costa Rica

A South Florida gymnastics coach who was loved by many died tragically during a hit-and-run on a trip he took to Costa Rica to celebrate his birthday.

Douglas Sleeman, 49, a gymnastics coach based in Broward County, died Tuesday. His 50th birthday trip was tragically cut short when he was struck by an 18-wheeler.

His colleagues at American Twisters say he had worked for the company for over 20 years and was their star coach.

"When we heard the news, we were all just in shock, you know, you never think that something like this will hit so close to home," said Sara Shugars, Douglas' colleague. "He taught a lot of preschoolers, thousands of preschoolers over the years. And, you know, he was the first one to teach me and the things that he taught me so many years ago I still implement in my classes today."

Coach Doug, as he was known to so many small children, was the overwhelming favorite among the students at the gymnastics school. His fiancée, who he had gotten engaged to on Easter, says going out in public with him was an event.

"We couldn't go anywhere without being stopped," Nanette Gordon said. "And just saying hello to a child or a parent or talking about the child's life. I know that from being a teacher but his was like, blown up ... There was just no way we could get to the next block without somebody stopping us."

Douglas is survived by his three young daughters. A GoFundMe was set up to help pay their school tuition.

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