Brooklyn Bar Mitzvah Boy Samuel Cohen-Eckstein Killed in Tragic Accident

Crushed by Van as He Chased Soccer Ball Near Prospect Park


By Maya Shwayder

Published October 10, 2013.
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A 12-year-old Brooklyn boy was struck by a van and killed on Tuesday evening while chasing a soccer ball outside his home near Prospect Park, police said.

Popular eighth-grader Samuel Cohen-Ecktein, 12, was crushed when he ran into Prospect Park West Tuesday night.

Cohen-Eckstein was hit by an oncoming 2006 white Chevrolet van, and was crushed by its back tires, the Daily News reported. He sustained severe trauma to the torso and was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Methodist Hospital.

The driver was questioned by police, but was not arrested. His name has not been released. A source told the Daily News the driver did not break any traffic laws. The NYPD said the investigation was ongoing.

A police spokesman told the Forward that Cohen-Eckstein was chasing a ball when he was killed. Lisa B. Segal, a cantor at Kolot Chayeinu synagogue, disputed that account, claiming that he carefully crossed the road after stopping to look for oncoming traffic.

“Sammy” Cohen-Eckstein was due to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah on November 16 at the Kolot Chayeinu congregation in Park Slope, a progressive synagogue, with a party to follow that evening in Williamsburg.

Gary Eckstein and Amy Cohen, parents of Sammy, had spoken in the past at community board meetings and to reporters about traffic safety laws and the need for better bike lanes.

At the leafy intersection where Eckstein-Cohen was hit, a small memorial cropped up overnight, attached to the two police barriers at the entrance to the park at Prospect Park West and Third street. The family’s apartment building stands just opposite the entrance.

Anita Culp, a Park Slope resident who bikes to work on Prospect Park West every day, stopped on her way to work to take in the few hand-made signs, signed by Eckstein-Cohen’s friends and classmates, and bouquets.

Culp said she saw the aftermath of the accident on Tuesday. “I was riding up and saw him lying in the street,” Culp told the Forward. “There were a few people standing around helping him and stopping traffic.”

Two of Eckstein-Cohen’s classmates from MS 51, Flora Lennihan, 12, and Alison Collard de Beaufort, 13, stood for a while at Eckstein-Cohen’s memorial. Collard de Beaufort was especially emotional, saying today at school was “terrible,” for the students and the teachers.

“The teachers were uncomfortable,” said Lennihan. “They hadn’t had a student pass away before, and they seemed uncomfortable so they didn’t know how to react or help students. “Luckily we have no tests tomorrow,” she added.

Collard de Beaufort said she heard about the accident on the news on Tuesday night, but didn’t know who had been hit. Lennihan said she didn’t know anything until she got to school on Wednesday morning and “saw everyone was crying,” and heard from her friends. Lennihan said the school administration had to close down the girl’s bathroom because too many people were writing messages to Eckstein-Cohen on the walls.

Both girls said Eckstein-Cohen was in their science and math classes, that he was good at school, liked soccer and being with his friends, and played trumpet in a jazz band. “He was very kind,” said Collard de Beaufort. “He never picked on anyone.”

City Councillors Brad Lander and Steve Levin both issued statements expressing their condolences. Levin said in an email to Streetsblog that, “this is a terrible tragedy and my thoughts and prayers go out to the boy’s family.”

Lander tweeted:


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