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LI teacher was not a risk-taker, husband says

Kristen Bednar of East Patchogue, with her husband

Kristen Bednar of East Patchogue, with her husband Michael. Kristen Bednar died Dec. 31, 2009, after sustaining severe head trauma in a snowmobile accident in Vermont. Credit: Handout

As an avid surfer and all-around athlete, Kristen Bednar knew the difference between pushing her boundaries and being reckless, according to her husband.

"She was not a risk-taker," Michael Bednar said Saturday.

Bednar, 30, of East Patchogue, died Thursday after suffering head injuries in a snowmobile crash in Vermont. The 2002 Yamaha she was driving hit a rock and veered into a deep ravine just after midnight Wednesday, Michael Bednar said.

A friend riding with her was thrown free, he said.

Bednar was going between 30 mph and 35 mph on the snowmobile, which isn't fast but a "just-getting-started speed," said Trooper Jeremy Lyon of the Vermont State Police.

Bednar didn't have adequate head protection, Trooper Gary Salvatore said. She was wearing a snowboarding helmet, not a more protective helmet made for snowmobiling, he said.

Her husband said she was experienced with snowmobiles. "She was a very good snowmobiler," Michael Bednar, 34, an aircraft parts manager, said Saturday from Bayport, where he was staying with relatives. "She was good with sports that required focus and balance, and she knew her limits."

He said he was riding an all-terrain vehicle at the time of the accident and came upon his wife just after she crashed.

"I went up the trail and found her . . . ," Michael Bednar said, weeping. "I could say she basically died in my arms."

Friends called Bednar "a magnet" who loved the children she taught at Birch Lane Elementary School in Massapequa, as well as at the autistic children's surfing camp where she volunteered.

Grief counselors will be on campus Monday to talk to children, said Joyce Becker-Seddio, the principal of Birch Lane.

Bednar was such a natural surfer that "she was like a seal in the water," said Warren Zufall, 59, a Patchogue surfer who knew Bednar and her husband through the local surfing community.

Recently, Bednar raised $12,000 for the surfing camp, run by Zufall's daughter Jessica Guberman, by hosting a double-Dutch jump rope fundraiser at Birch Lane, where she was a physical education teacher.

"We're just completely devastated," said Guberman, executive director of Community Options, the Princeton, N.J., nonprofit organization that sponsors the surfing camp. "She was our biggest advocate."

Becker-Seddio described Bednar as "vivacious, dedicated, warm, creative, loyal."

"She was the most wonderful human being," she said. "It's a loss that we will not be able to replace."

Funeral arrangements at Chapey's Funeral Home in East Islip were pending as Bednar's organs were harvested for donation, and storm conditions in New England delayed her family's return to Long Island, Michael Bednar said.

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