Thruway tragedy kills 4I was in Buffalo for this meet, the New York state YMCA championships. My daughter swims, swam, with April and Kevin.
3 kids & woman die in crash on way to YMCA swim meet
This story was reported by OREN YANIV, KATHLEEN LUCADAMO, SCOTT SHIFREL,
ALISON GENDAR, ETHAN SACKS, BOB KAPPSTATTER, AUSTIN FENNER,
JOE MAHONEY, and DON SINGLETON
It was written by CORKY SIEMASZKO
A trip to a swimming competition (in Buffalo) ended in tragedy yesterday when three members of a Queens YMCA youth team and the parent who was driving them were killed by a truck that crashed into their van on the New York Thruway.
The deadly wreck tore the heart out of the Flushing Flyers Aquatic Club and plunged family and friends in the Queens enclave into mourning.
"I have lost my beautiful daughter," Kam Lao said as he grieved for 14-year-old April Lao. "No one can believe this is true."
The girl's teammate, 16-year-old Kevin Kwan, was also killed. So was Kwan's mother, who was driving the van, and his 10-year-old brother, officials said.
As a team parent, I volunteered to time home races, so I knew April and Kevin. More tragic still, they attended the high school I graduated from 30 years ago. Both April and Kevin were bright, charming kids, outgoing, and well loved by their teammates. I remember the passion and joy they exhibited on and off the pool deck. That passion fed into their swimming and they excelled there too.
Passion and commitment: it's what fueled April and Kevin and it's what fueled their teammates to dedicate their performances in the meet to the memories of April and Kevin. Had I been on the team as a swimmer, I'm not sure I would have had the courage to swim, but most of them did. April's boyfriend, One June Chang, swam and swam harder than I'd ever seen him swim, and he is an amazing swimmer.
There was a ceremony before the finals on Saturday night, a moment of silence, and the team members swimming that night huddled around the starting blocks where April and Kevin likely would have competed in their events, to say goodbye.
I remember swimmer after swimmer, finishing their events, tears streaming down their faces, faces that just two weeks before had been laughing and shouting, painting signs and eating bagels at the early morning "psych" party for the state championships. Excited and eager faces, despite the 6AM call for the team photo, and muttering, grumbling parents (I was among the loudest, I confess.)
The ironies of this weekend were not lost on me. I flew back to New York City with a fire chief who had been at the middle of the Trade Center collapse on September 11. Neither of us could muster the strength to grieve with the other, and yet in our eyes was said all that needed to be said. It doesn't take a world crisis to create a tragedy.
It merely takes a flat tire.
Swim fast, swim strong, April, Kevin. Eternity needs an anchor leg.
April Lao, Kevin Kwan, New York, Flushing Flyers, Stuyvesant High School