The Coney Island community remembered three young children who were found dead on the beach on Sept. 12 at a candlelight vigil.
Councilmember Ari Kagan opened the memorial for 7-year-old Zachary Merdy, 4-year-old Lilana Merdy and 3-month-old Oliver Bondarev with kind words about the young children’s lives and emphasized how the sudden loss has left the neighborhood stunned.
“This week all of us lost three precious lives here. It’s sad, terrible and heartbreaking,” the councilman said at the Sept. 15 vigil. “The community is suffering.”
Allen McFarland, one of Zachary’s coaches at the C.I.T.Y football program, said it’s important the community and youth feel comforted in the wake of an unexpected tragedy.
“He was very expressive in the sense of action. He was a very quiet young man but he was very expressive in showing laughter, joy [or] smiling,” McFarland told Brooklyn Paper. “He was very thrilled to play the sport of football.”
The coach and teammates gathered around the vigil in their football jerseys with balloons and candles to remember their former teammate.
Other town leaders came to show their support, including pastor Ebony Taylor with Coney Island Cathedral, who led the crowd and prayer, as well as state Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, who said the loss of these lives is proof that the community is suffering from a mental health crisis in the aftermath of the pandemic.
According to the NYPD, Erin Merdy, the 30-year old mother of the children, was arrested and charged on Wednesday with three counts of murder for allegedly drowning the young ones in the Atlantic Ocean.
Officers from the 60th precinct were alerted to the situation early Monday morning after a call from a family member raised questions of the kids’ safety. After an extensive search of the area, the victims were found unresponsive along the shoreline and their mother was found barefoot and wet on the boardwalk.
A judge ordered that Merdy be placed in protective custody and receive a psychological evaluation at her arraignment, which took place on Friday via video from NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn, according to NBC New York.
Family members held a wake for Zachary and Liliana at a wake on Thursday. Liliana will be buried in New York on Monday, while Zachary is expected to be laid to rest with his father’s family in Virginia, according to the New York Daily News.