Two students at a Connecticut yeshiva were killed and two others injured when their van crashed and rolled down an embankment, school officials and police said.
Eli Shonbron, 16, and Dani King, 15, both of Brooklyn, died in the crash on Interstate 84 near the New York-Connecticut border just after midnight, state police said.
“Dani King was a wonderful boy, he was a fun-loving child,” Reeva Plaut, his neighbor in Flatbush, told the Daily News. “It’s a sickening loss for the entire community.”
Another family friend, Steve Weill, 41, told the paper King was “the apple of his parents’ eye.”
“He was a fun kid who was full of life and energy,” Weill told the News.
Rabbi Shalom Siegfried, vice president of Yeshiva Ateres Shmuel, confirmed the crash and said that counsellors from Chai Lifeline has brought in counselors to the school to speak with the students and faculty.
The News-Times of Danbury reported the van was carrying 11 people. The blog Voz Iz Neias first reported that the van was carrying a group of students from Brooklyn to the Jewish boarding school in Waterbury.
According to the Connecticut State Police report, the van drove off the side of the highway between exits 2 and 3, rolled down an embankment and collided into several trees.
Several students were trapped in the vehicle and had to be extricated. The other nine occupants were taken to Danbury Hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.
Connecticut State Police could not confirm whether the accident was due to human error and said the matter was still under investigation.
School officials said the students, including Shonbron and King, all attended the school.
Funerals were expected to be held for the two boys Monday afternoon in Boro Park, Brooklyn.
“We are in a state of shock and mourning,” Siegfried told Voz Iz Neias. “We have the families and everyone in our tefillos and we hope to be able to move forward.”
Driver Elimelech Sperling, 21, was a youth counselor at the yeshiva, said Siegfried.
Siegfried says the students had been in New York for the weekend, visiting friends and relatives. He stressed that the van is not owned by the school.
“It was a vacation Sabbath. They’d been in New York because many of them come from New York,” Siegfried told the News-Times.
Voz Iz Neias reported it is the second time in recent times that a car crash has killed a student at the Waterbury yeshiva. Shaya Twerski was killed in March 2003, the site said.
Maia Efrem is the research editor and assistant to the editor and has been at the Forward since 2010. Maia is responsible for the Forward’s annual Salary Survey and has been the deputy editor for several special sections. Previously she served as the editor of Blognik Beat, a blog written by students who emigrated from or have ties to the Former Soviet Union. She is a graduate of Hunter College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Contact Maia Efrem at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter at @maiaefrem