Mourners gather for car crash victim
Hundreds of mourners packed a Jamaica funeral home Saturday morning to remember Neal Rajapa, 17, one of four teens killed in an Oct. 8 crash on the Southern State Parkway.
The funeral capped a week of grief for the community.
"This is the fourth funeral I've been to this week," said Kevin Shivlall, 19, who lives a block from Rajapa's home.
Services were held earlier this week for the three other teens killed in the crash: Darian Ramnarine, Christopher Khan and Peter Kanhai, all 18 and from South Ozone Park.
The driver, Joseph Beer, 17, of Richmond Hill, survived and was released from the hospital last week.
At Saturday's funeral, mourners and religious leaders in traditional Hindu garb burned incense, a ritual that will offer protection to the deceased, said Eshwar Sharma, a Hindu priest who led the services at Leahy McDonald Funeral Home.
Sharma and Rajapa's uncle, Goel Ramsaroop, tried making sense of the teen's death.
"God takes the ones He loves most," explained Sharma, during his sermon.
Ramsaroop, speaking on behalf of the family, called Saturday morning "the most difficult in all of our lives."
"Neal was more than a nephew," he told mourners. "He was more than a beloved son. He was an angel to us all."
Jesus Enriquez, 18, of Brighton Beach, lingered with friends outside the funeral home after the service ended. He said the entire week had been "horrible."
"Everybody said, 'That was our boy,' " Enriquez said. "We're not going to forget about him."
During the service, Rajapa's coffin remained open for viewing.
Ramsaroop said his nephew would be embarking on "his final journey."
"Wherever I may be, whether it's out on the street, or under an umbrella, I wait for you with open arms," Ramsaroop said.
Police said Beer was driving a 2012 Subaru Impreza at 3:40 a.m. on a rain-slicked westbound stretch of the Southern State Parkway in Lakeview when he lost control and slammed into several trees. The car split in two and all five passengers were ejected from the vehicle, authorities said.
Beer, who was driving with a learner permit, has not been charged. His blood is being tested for alcohol and drugs, but results could take another week, the Nassau County district attorney said Wednesday.
Investigators also are working with accident reconstruction experts to determine a possible cause for the crash.
With Robert Brodsky