NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A candlelight vigil was held for the 16-year-old boy killed in a gruesome accident on the George Washington Bridge Friday night.
Friends, family and teachers were among the hundreds at the vigil at St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens Saturday night.
“His smile lit up the room. He really made a difference for so many,” St. Francis Prep chaplain Father Bill Sweeney told CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian.
“This made everyone realize how precious life is and that you shouldn’t take anyone for granted,” fellow student Elayne Pereira told Dardashtian.
Other students were in disbelief that a night of fun could end in such a tragedy.
“How does someone just peek their head out. They’re probably trying to have fun, yell a little bit, make a little noise like people do on limos all the time. It’s just sad,” St. Francis Prep student Amar Ametha said.
Police said Daniel Fernandez was killed when he stuck his head out of a hatch on a double-decker party bus. His head struck the underside of a highway overpass.
The security guard on board the bus said he warned the kids repeatedly against opening the hatch.
At the vigil, English teacher Jane Lynch spoke about Fernandez as she choked back tears.
“Sometimes kids don’t recognize their own mortality,” Lynch said.
“It just shows how much of an impact that one person can have on so many other people’s lives,” student Claire Loredan told Dardashtian.
Fernandez was among 65 kids on the bus headed for a Sweet 16 party in Garfield, N.J. on Friday. The accident happened as the bus crossed the George Washington Bridge on the way to New Jersey.
The teens were dancing and the bus had gotten hot, the security guard, Alex Franco, told the Daily News.
“I told them not to open the hatch, like three or four times, but kids, they don’t understand,” he said.
Franco said he had gone downstairs to tell the driver that it was getting too hot.
“Two, five minutes I was downstairs,” he said.
But then he heard teenagers screaming, and he saw Fernandez on the floor of the bus. “There was so much blood everywhere,” he told The New York Post.
Fernandez, who lived in Queens’ Woodside neighborhood, was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Friends sent sad Twitter messages reacting to his death.
“Sitting here with your blood on my foot wishing this was all a bad dream. I love you so much dan you were there for me till the last second,” wrote one student, who said she was forever scarred.
Students planned to wear blue on the first day of school to honor the teen.
Fernandez was going to be a junior at St. Francis Prep. He was a beloved student, said Lynch, who taught him last school year.
“He was an adorable, low-key kid, with a sweet smile,” she said. “Kids loved him; he had lots of friends and was popular with the girls.”
The school said on its website that it shared in grief and shock over his death. A wake was set for Monday, the site said.
Designer Limousines, which operates the bus, expressed its “deepest heartfelt sympathy” to the teen’s family. The company said it would conduct an internal investigation.
A wake for Fernandez is scheduled for Monday at Kearns Funeral Home in Rego Park. His funeral will be early next week.
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