Aaron Tepfer, 10, was supposed to start the sixth grade at a Far Rockaway Jewish school Monday. Instead, hundreds gathered at his funeral service at the school Sunday to mourn the Cedarhurst boy who died after his leg became stuck in a boat propeller Friday.
The crowd in attendance at the Yeshiva Darchei Torah was so large it spilled from the auditorium and into the school's hallways and cafeteria, school spokesman Moshe Benoliel said.
The boy's father, Tully Tepfer, spoke at the service, which Benoliel said was attended by more than 1,000 supporters. Aaron's mother, Rochel Tepfer, is a teacher at the school, Benoliel said. School officials said he is survived by a younger sister and five older brothers.
"He was named after the biblical Aaron who was known for love and peace," Benoliel said in an interview after the service. "It was a fitting name because Aaron followed in his footsteps. He pursued peace. Sometimes the teachers would ask him to interfere when there were conflicts between students."
Benoliel said the boy was "personable," enjoyed piano music and while Aaron was "very athletic, he was very inclusive in the sports. He always looked out for the other kids regardless of their ability."
According to Nassau County police, Aaron was aboard a floating tube being dragged by a 27-foot Sea Ray Sundeck operated by a friend's father, when he fell off about 2:20 p.m. Friday in the waters off the Cedarhurst Yacht Club. He started swimming toward the boat, and as he tried to climb aboard, his left leg got stuck and he went under water, police said.
The boat's operator held Aaron's life vest to keep his head above water until help arrived, police said.
The boy was initially listed in serious condition Friday, but Fourth Squad detectives said Sunday he was pronounced dead about 12:30 a.m. Saturday.
Yeshiva Darchei Torah school officials said mental health and bereavement counselors would be available.