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New Hyde Park teen killed in Iceland car crash, aunt says

A car crash during a family holiday in Iceland has claimed the life of Zachary Zabatta, 17, of New Hyde Park, who loved science and being challenged, his aunt said.

His younger sister, Sophia, 15, was grievously injured, said Arlene Zabatta, of Wantagh.

"How something so awful could happen to a family going on a vacation — and their lives are changed forever," she said. "We're all devastated. He was very much loved and he will be truly missed." 

The rental car the family was traveling in left the road in the western part of the country on Saturday at about 1 p.m., Ásmundur Kristinn Ásmundsson, superintendent of the Icelandic Police — West District, said by telephone.

"All of them got injured and two of them seriously," he said by email. "We used two helicopters and several ambulances to get them to a hospital in Reykjavik." 

Sophia is in an induced coma, her aunt said: "She is getting stronger every day."

Also badly injured were Sophia and Zachary's father, James; their mother, Barbara; and an older sister , Gabriella, 19, who is a student at Boston's Northeastern University.

Arlene Zabatta has created a GoFundMe page to help the family cope with all the "logistical expenses of being stranded in a foreign country," including medical, transport, and funeral costs. She set a goal of $100,000; as of Wednesday afternoon, $82,390 had been raised.

If there are enough donations, the family will create a scholarship in Zachary's name, Arlene Zabatta said.

A senior at St. Mary's High School in Manhasset, Zachary was adept with computers and had aspired to become an endocrinologist, his aunt said.

Zachary can be seen demonstrating a multistory tower built out of balsa wood — and its complicated designs  — in a YouTube video, part of the school's Science Olympiad. Said his aunt: "He always loved to be challenged."

All that stood between him and becoming an Eagle Scout was the final board review, she said. And he wanted to give back. Her nephew recently donated a week of his time working with a group that undertakes home improvement projects for families in need.

"He so excelled at school and he had such a bright future ahead of him," Arlene Zabatta said.

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