So beloved were 7-year-old Jason Trinca and his mother, Keri, that Eastport-South Manor High School's football field bleachers could not accommodate the hundreds of people who came out to remember them with candles at a ceremony Tuesday night.
"We believe Keri and Jason are very much alive with the Lord," said the Rev. Bruce Powers of Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in Manorville. "One day we'll see them again and we'll enjoy their love and friendship in a far better place."
Candles flickered in the crisp night as relatives of the Trincas sat on the gridiron.
The 7:45 p.m. event took place as Suffolk police continued to investigate the crash that took the Trincas' lives Saturday. Keri Trinca's other children, ages 2 and 4, were seriously injured when her car collided with a van on County Road 111 and Ocean View Boulevard in Manorville.
People recited words of Scripture and sang inspirational songs at the hourlong tribute filled with reflections on their lives.
"She had that no-nonsense way of dealing with life," said Danielle Chavez, Keri's cousin. "She would always tell you how it was. . . . No beating around the bush. . . . Her dreams and goals in life were endless."
Jason's friends, dressed in silver and navy blue football uniforms, huddled around a helmet and shouted "1! 2! 3! Jason!"
He "was just a beautiful boy," Nocero said. "Everybody in the community is going to miss him dearly."
Jason's sister, Maria, 4, who remains in the hospital, is enrolled in the school's pre-K program, he said.
It was not clear if Jay Trinca, Keri's husband and father of the children, was at the vigil. He was at Stony Brook University Medical Center, keeping watch over Maria and 2-year-old son Christopher. Both children remain in critical condition, but a hospital spokesman said their conditions are improving.
Trinca was driving with her children, who were in child safety seats in the backseat, when her car was struck by a van at the intersection of County Road 111 and Montauk Avenue, at about 8:25 a.m. Saturday. She was taking Jason, a go-kart racer, to practice at Riverhead Raceway.
Trinca was pronounced dead at the scene and Jason died of his injuries at Peconic Bay Medical Center.
Steven Vonfricken, 51, of St. James, the driver of the van, has not returned calls.
No charges have been filed and police are still investigating the cause of the crash, said Suffolk County Sgt. James McGuiness. Investigators are asking anyone who may have witnessed the collision to call the Seventh Squad at 631-852-8752 or 800-220-TIPS.
With Zachary R. Dowdy
and John Valenti