2012-09-05 / Features

Queens Teens Spend Labor Day Weekend Mourning Friend

BY CRISTINA GUARINO

Family, friends and students at Saint Francis Preparatory H.S. in Fresh Meadows spent the weekend mourning the loss of their friend Daniel Fernandez.

Fernandez, a 16-year-old Woodside resident and junior at the school, was killed around 6:45 p.m. on September 1 after opening the escape hatch on a double decker party bus and striking his head on an overpass after crossing the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. The party bus, a 70-seater from Designer Limo, was taking 65 students to a Sweet 16 party in Garfield, New Jersey, Friday night when the tragedy occurred on I-95 Southbound at the Fletcher Avenue overpass.

The friends had been dancing in the bus, gearing up for the party, when they started complaining about the bus being too hot. Security guard Alex Franco told sources he had gone downstairs to alert the driver of the complaints. “It was very hot. Everybody was dancing. Two or five minutes I was downstairs. Then I heard two guys screaming, ‘Oh my God, oh my God,’” Franco said. “I told them not to open the hatch, like three or four times, but kids, they don’t understand.”

Designer Limo has extended their condolences to the boy’s family. According to the company, the emergency escape hatch on the bus should have had a safety seal.

Just minutes after the accident, students already at the party were alerted of the tragedy via Twitter, which exploded with tweets from traumatized and already mourning students, including Fernandez’s girlfriend. Fernandez was pronounced dead on arrival at the Hackensack University Medical Center shortly after the accident.

Mourners gathered at Saint Francis Prep Saturday the following night to console each other at a vigil held in Fernandez’s honor. Teary-eyed students, teachers and others close to Fernandez lit candles and prayed for the boy and his family. The wake took place at Kearns Funeral Home in Rego Park, where hundreds of Fernandez’s fellow students joined the grievers, amongst them his grandmother--who collapsed at the sight of the closed casket--and his parents, Jose and Maria Fernandez.

Fernandez is scheduled to be cremated on Wednesday. Numerous support efforts are being held across the Web and at the school, including a Facebook page, $10 tee-shirts to help support the family, wrist bands and pins.

“This is why no other school compares to Prep, we stick together through thick and thin,” Fernandez once tweeted. “I’m so proud to call myself an SFP Terrier.”

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