Tag Archives: St. Francis Prep

Loved ones mourn as Prep teen laid to rest after tragic death

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Twitter

Loved ones who gathered at a wake on Labor Day to mourn the popular St. Francis Prep teen killed Friday in a gruesome party bus accident remembered him as a hilarious, fun-loving boy with a permanent smile pressed on his face.

“He was always cracking jokes,” said classmate Noah Buttner, 15. “He made [geometry class] a lot of fun. If he smiled, no matter how bad your day was going, you had to smile back.”

Daniel Fernandez, a 16-year-old incoming Prep junior, died in a bloody freak accident on the night of Friday, August 31, when he smashed his head on the underside of a New Jersey overpass after poking out of an emergency hatch on the top of a double-decker party bus, said Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesperson Steve Coleman.  

The bus had just traveled over the George Washington Bridge going westbound when the accident occurred shortly before 7 p.m., Coleman said. Fernandez struck the underside of the Fletcher Avenue overpass, just west of the bridge in Fort Lee, and was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead with severe head trauma.

The Designer Limousine bus was loaded with 65 teens en route to a Sweet 16 in Garfield, New Jersey, Coleman said. There were only two adults on board — the bus driver and a male safety attended provided by the transportation company, who was not required to be present by law, according to Designer spokesperson Kyle Kotary.

The safety employee, Kotary said, had warned Fernandez and his pals to get down from their seats and to stop opening the hatch before heading down to ask the driver to turn up the air conditioning.

“In that split minute he had gone downstairs, somebody had opened the hatch and that’s when the accident occurred,” Kotary said. “That’s how it went down as the safety attendant described it.”

According to Kotary, the parents of the girl hosting the Sweet 16 party rented the bus for the Queens group. He said to his knowledge, the partying pals did not have alcohol on the bus, but could not confirm if the group had been drinking before boarding. Designer employees had confiscated one backpack, one “gift box” and one “iced tea colored bottle” from the teens before the bus departed, Kotary said.

“This was a sad and tragic accident caused by a poor decision to ignore repeated verbal warnings from the safety attendant and clearly marked written warnings on the vehicle,” Designer said in a statement.

Some of the ready-to-party teens, who began their trip at their Fresh Meadows high school, took to Twitter minutes after the horrific tragedy.

“Sitting here with your blood on my foot wishing this was all a bad dream,” said party-goer Vicky Budz, who told her 354 followers 12 hours earlier she was “raging tonight.”

“Feel like my insides are being ripped apart,” Budz tweeted. “I don’t know how I’m gonna be able to function after this. Scarred forever.”

Hundreds of Fernandez’s classmates, friends and family members paid their respects during a wake held at Kearns Funeral Home in Rego Park on Monday, September 3. A line to honor the Woodside teen stretched around the block within minutes of opening visitation hours.

“It’s been said, but he was always smiling. He always had something funny to say,” said close family friend Daniel Santamaria. “He was never sad.”

Santamaria said Fernandez played bagpipes and danced as a member of Casa Galicia — a social club in Astoria for those who come from Galicia, an autonomous community in northwestern Spain.

Prep transfer student Irvin Navarrete, 17, said Fernandez was the first person he ever met in high school and remembered his first high school pal as “a good person” and “kind.”

As of press time, there were no new discoveries in the investigation, but Coleman said the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office in New Jersey would make any determination regarding charges.

A candlelight vigil at St. Francis Prep was held for the beloved teen the night after the horrific accident. Weeping students holding candles and wearing blue walked in silence to the corner of Francis Lewis Boulevard and the Horace Harding Expressway, where they placed lit candles in front of a statue of the school’s patron saint.

St. Francis Prep principal Brother Leonard Conway said school officials were preparing grief counseling sessions for traumatized students aboard the bus. A memorial service would also be held at the school when the family is ready, Conway said.

“He wasn’t like anybody else,” Navarrete said.

Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Monday: Overcast with a chance of rain. High of 79. Winds from the SE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 30%. Monday night: Overcast with a chance of rain, then thunderstorms and rain showers after midnight. Low of 72. Winds from the ESE at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 70% with rainfall amounts near 0.5 in. possible.

EVENT of the DAY: 30th Avenue Astoria Festival

Enjoy a plethora of booths selling food and goodies at the 30th Avenue Astoria Festival. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Peacock seen wandering Queens has been captured

The strut is up for one peacock that had been roaming Queens for weeks. The colorful bird was captured in Queens on Friday morning after it was spotted peacking the ground behind an apartment building. Read more: CBS New York

Hundreds grieve Queens high schooler Daniel Fernandez after party bus tragedy

The good times were rolling aboard the party bus to a Sweet 16 celebration — until tragedy struck for a Queens student who won’t see his 17th birthday. Read more: New York Daily News

Queens woman recovering from acid attack

A Queens woman whose eye and skin were horribly burned after her elderly dad doused her with sulfuric acid was up and talking yesterday as she battled back from the grisly attack. Read more: New York Post 

Seasonal parking bans please many Rockaways Residents but irk visitors

The houses in Neponsit and Belle Harbor, Queens, out past the last stop on the A train on the Rockaway Peninsula, are not what you picture when you think of New York City. Read more: New York Times

Citizenship help on offer thru City Council 

Immigrants will be able to get help applying for citizenship or deferred action — the new, temporary work and residency permits for young immigrants — at 30 City Council members’ offices starting next month. Read more: New York Daily News

On Labor Day, jobs debate a convention warm-up

Republicans and Democrats jockeyed for economic high ground in a Labor Day warm-up to the Democratic National Convention, with Republican Mitt Romney labeling the holiday “another day of worrying” for too many Americans anxious about finding a job. Read more: AP

Poll: Romney receives low score for convention speech

Mitt Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week received a lower score than any presidential candidate’s convention speech since the poll starting asking the question in 1996, according to the polling firm Gallup. Read more: CBS News

Lady Terriers reflect on tough season

| ncarousso@queenscourier.com

Photo by John Hessel at St. Francis Prep

The St. Francis Prep Lady Terriers basketball team finished with only two victories overall, but, their sense of camaraderie grew down the stretch of the season. The hype of the season did not quite match up with the execution on the court, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t work hard.

The Lady Terriers victories came against Baruch College Campus and St. John Villa, in the New York State playoffs. Just around the time of the game between St. Francis at St. John Villa the team began to cultivate a sense of togetherness, as well as a team identity. Many obstacles faced the Lady Terriers this season, as they fought hard to remain close in games against the tough competition.

Caitlin O’Doherty, senior forward on the Lady Terriers, said that this season proved to be a great learning experience for the young team.

“One of the obstacles we faced this season, I think, was that we had a very young and inexperienced team, but at the end of the season we really started to come together,” she said. “We love Prep and I think that really showed through our hustle on and off the court.”

Even though they’re young, the team has showed a willingness to do what is necessary to win – and a level of dedication that is rare for such a young squad.

This year’s team consisted of five seniors, two juniors and four sophomores – a very young and inexperienced group. The players anticipate next year will be more successful because of the valuable experience on varsity that the sophomores and juniors soaked up this season.

Hardship galvanized this group of girls and gave them the strength they hope to carry into next season. The Lady Terriers are content on practicing on their individual games and playing in summer leagues. They undeniably came together at the end of the season, which they hope to carry into next year and beyond.

“It’s been a rough season, but as a team we pulled through it,” said junior guard Veronica Ganzi. “We can lose every game, but we worked hard and most importantly, we did it together. That’s what we had to take away from this season.”


Lady Terriers capture crown; now seek state title

| ncarousso@queenscourier.com

Photo by Stephanie Horan  Back Row: Kiara Pierre, Kelly Flynn, Jen Hussey, Caroline Gorecki 2nd Row: Johary Rivadeneira, Tara O’Rourke, Kaitlyn Sluyk, Jaclyn LaForgia, Caroline Vallone, Kiara Otero, Nicole Tong, Kendra McCalla Front Row (Captains): Caitlin O’Doherty, Talia Colasante, Allison Betito

Over the past half-decade, the St. Francis Prep ladies volleyball team has dominated the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA).

That domination continued as the Lady Terriers defeated the Stanners of Archbishop Molloy in the Brooklyn/Queens CHSAA championship game in Fresh Meadows on November 2.

Before the championship game, the Stanners and Lady Terriers met three times this year, including a tiebreaking match for the highest seed. The Lady Terriers won that match to clinch the number one seed. Team captain Talia Colasante, who recorded 22 kills in the championship match, was one of the reasons for the Lady Terriers’ incredible success this season.

“During the championship we wanted to do the same thing [as they did by beating Archbishop Molloy in the tiebreaking match] and show them who’s boss,” Colasante said.

The Lady Terriers used the emotional loss in the last regular season match on “Senior Night” as motivation to defeat Molloy in the tiebreaker and in the finals.

If the loss to the Stanners that snapped the Lady Terriers regular season winning streak wasn’t motivation enough, Prep would find a motivation in the practices leading up to each match.

Caroline Vallone played an integral role in securing the victory against the Stanners in the finals.

“This team is one of the most motivated teams I’ve seen and with whatever rotation Mr. C. puts us in we can still overcome any obstacle and take down any team put in our path,” said Vallone.

“Mr. C.” or head coach Kevin Colucci prepared his team for the playoffs all season. Although the ladies were disappointed about losing on “Senior Night,” Colucci saw the big picture in getting to the Brooklyn/Queens finals and winning their fifth consecutive Brooklyn/Queens CHSAA title.

“We put it together at the end and it was nice to see them win the championship,” Colucci said. “I was hoping that we would get back to the states and see how we play against the other teams.”

This finals match was a battle and a nail biter to watch. Under Colucci’s direction, they played with “clear eyes” and a “full heart,” part of the team’s motto that is displayed on team sweatshirts.

“He drives me to play to the best of my ability,” said team captain Allison Betito, referring to Colucci and his coaching techniques.

St. Francis plays in the CHSAA class AA state tournament on Saturday, November 12. Their opponent, St. Anthony’s, has won the state tournament the last two years, but the Lady Terriers have the camaraderie and proficiency to win this year. Team captain Caitlin O’Doherty talked about what St. Francis needs to do in order to be a competitor in the state tournament.

“As a team [we] have to be more motivated, more enthusiastic and work together, play hard and in general have the mindset of wanting to win and not let the little things get the best of us and play hard,” she said.

These ladies surely have the mindset of a winning team – playing through injuries and other obstacles over the course of the season. Kelly Flynn, a junior on the team, has been a bright spot for the Lady Terriers all season long. She was forced to sit out the semifinal match against The Mary Louis Academy due to a mild concussion and early in the first game of the best of five series in the final match, she went down with an ankle injury. However, Flynn came back to record eighteen kills and five blocks to give St. Francis the push they needed to win the fourth and fifth sets.

“It’s a mindset that you have to have that nothing could hold you back,” said Flynn.

Now, the Lady Terriers face the state tournament in Buffalo on Saturday.

Jamaica track star takes talent on the road

| smosco@queenscourier.com


A track star from Jamaica keeps Queens in her heart as she pounds the New England pavement, collecting accolades and running circles around the competition.

Karen Roa, a former Terrier and three-year letterwinner with St. Francis Prep, entered the University of Massachusetts (UMASS) filled with excited nerves and anticipation. Now a senior, the 21-year-old looks back on her years of running with pride – and she looks toward her future with the same excited nerves and anticipation that once preceded her college years.

After college, she plans on attending medical school to continue studying kinesiology, her major at UMASS. The study of human movement, kinesiology is the perfect fit for an active girl like Roa.

“I’ve always been active, always been involved in sports,” said Roa, who started running during her sophomore year at St. Francis Prep after a chance encounter with the school’s track team. “My main priority was to stay in shape for the tennis team – that’s why I started running.”

The women’s track and field coach at Prep, Jim May, convinced her to run at some track meets. Competition and camaraderie combined to build a desire within Roa to stay with the team and run full time. While running for Prep, she won every cross country meet except for one. Some of her milestones include the two-mile in 11:10 as a junior, the 2000m steeplechase in 7:06 and the 3000m in 10:51 as a sophomore.

That might sound like a lot of running, but according to Roa, it is nothing compared to running UMASS as a Minutewoman. In college, runners have to put in a lot more mileage – and with more mileage comes more training and more chance for injury.

“In high school I probably did 25 miles per week, and in college it’s more like 40 to 50 miles per week,” she said. “The coaches do a great job of transitioning runners to that amount of running. It’s important to build up the body so it doesn’t break down. You do that by doing base training in the summer before you even get to school.”

Before she even got her base training down, Roa said that her time running in high school prepared her for the rigors of college.

And that preparation paid off. During her freshman year, she turned heads at the NCAA Regionals, the Atlantic 10 Championships and the Albany Invitational. During her sophomore year, she set a new school record in the 3000m steeplechase on three separate occasions and during her junior year, she led the team at the NCAA Regional Championships.

Also, being a runner gifted her with a cache of friends, making the move from Queens to Massachusetts a far smoother transition.

“I didn’t feel any real pressure heading into college. It was a new environment and I was excited to meet new people,” she said. “It helped having [track] girls as a support system. It’s hard to make friends as a freshman, but when you’re on the track team, your friends are a given.”

That’s not to say that Roa doesn’t miss Queens. As most college kids can relate to, she sometimes thought about how different her college town was compared to her home in Jamaica. She missed home a lot, but was comforted in the fact that it was only three hours away.

“I missed the energy and the speed of home. It’s so fast there, while here it’s a very calm little town. It’s nice and I definitely enjoy it, but Queens is what I love,” she said. “This was the perfect school for me because home was only three hours away, yet it’s important to find your own way a bit and stand on your own two legs.”

After standing – and running – on her own two legs at UMASS, Roa is ready for life’s next race. No matter what, she knows she will also have a support system running in tandem.

“I definitely want to make my parents happy and they’ve been supportive of everything I do,” she said. “It’s good to know that no matter what, I’ll always have a good background support system.”