Nassau County mourned the deaths of two young Roslyn tennis players after an accused drunk driver cut short their lives last week and snuffed out the dreams their families, school, friends and community had for the talented 14-year-olds.
The Roslyn School District, in a statement, reflected on the passing of Drew Hassenbein and Ethan Falkowitz, both middle school students, and two injured high school friends.
“The tragic passing of two of our Roslyn Middle School students is a tremendous loss for their families, friends, and our school community,” the statement said. “The district extends our deepest condolences and asks that everyone respect the families’ right to grieve privately during this very difficult time…We wish a speedy and complete recovery to our two Roslyn High School students in the hospital. Our hearts are broken.”
The district also said it will have psychologists, guidance counselors and other social workers set up at each school to provide support for students, staff or families.
Hassenbein and Falkowitz were killed after being hit by an allegedly drunk driver behind the wheel of a Dodge Ram traveling on the wrong side of the road in Jericho, according to the Nassau County Police Department.
Both were remembered as promising tennis players with local sports groups where the two played from early childhood.
Hassenbein was a nationally ranked tennis player who played on the high school varsity tennis team. He was ranked as high as No. 1 in the country in the National Boys 12 and Under division in 2021. He also facilitated the coin toss at the 2021 Men’s U.S. Open Final.
The United States Tennis Association’s Eastern Region reflected on the passing of the two boys and extended their condolences to those close to them.
“USTA Eastern is heartbroken over the tragic loss of Drew Hassenbein and Ethan Falkowitz, two members of the Roslyn High School tennis team on Long Island,” a statement from the organization said. “We extend our thoughts and prayers to their families, teammates and loved ones.”
The Sportime Roslyn tennis club, in a statement, said it watched the boys practice their tennis skills from a young age.
“These were extremely special boys who were best friends and who will be missed greatly by our entire community,” Sportime Roslyn said. “Drew and Ethan started playing here at our club as 5 and 6-year-olds, and they had become (as eighth graders) two of the top players on Roslyn’s High School’s varsity tennis team, the top team on Long Island.”
Falkowitz also played tennis for the Roslyn High School team. He played mostly doubles for the Bulldogs and helped the team begin winning matches from the start.
Christopher Morley Tennis, a local tennis club, said Falkowitz was a frequent player.
“We were privileged to have Ethan play at our club on a regular basis,” Christopher Morley Tennis said. “We extend our deepest condolences to the heartbroken families and friends of these young men. Our thoughts and prayers are with all who are grieving this unimaginable loss.”
Long Island Tennis Magazine, which covers regional matches and tournaments, described the deaths of both teens as “a tremendous loss” for the tennis community.
“We mourn the tragic passing of Drew Hassenbein and Ethan Falkowitz, and extend our thoughts and prayers to the Hassenbeins, Falkowitzes, the Roslyn tennis team and everyone affected by this horrific tragedy,” they said in a statement.
Timber Lake Camp in Shandaken, N.Y., and Pennsylvania’s Tyler Hill Camp reflected on how their respective attendees left an impact on fellow campers and staffers.
“Those of us who knew Drew saw in him great promise, not only due to his exceptional talents in tennis, where he was a nationally ranked player but as a kind, thoughtful and much-admired friend to so many,” Timber Lake Camp said. “Simply, Drew was a great kid from a great and loving family whose bright, promising future was cut short by such a senseless tragedy.”
“Everyone who ever came in contact with Ethan knew him as a kid who warmed up every room he entered with his smile and amazing personality,” Tyler Hill Camp said in a statement. “He was kind and thoughtful and a camper who was loved by everyone at Tyler Hill.”
The driver of the Dodge Ram, Roslyn resident, Amandeep Singh, faces a series of charges, including aggravated vehicular homicide, according to police. He was remanded by District Court Judge Joseph Nocella Thursday, which led to applause from members of the Roslyn community in attendance, according to multiple reports.
More than 100 members of the Roslyn community were also present outside the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola Monday where Singh was held without bail. A few dozen family members and friends of the two boys attended the three-minute hearing Monday.
He is next scheduled to appear in court on June 6.
East Hills Mayor Michael Koblenz said he believes the local community’s presence at the courtroom Thursday played a role in Nocella’s decision. The mayor said he and the rest of the village board “are grief-stricken” over the loss of Hassenbein and Falkowitz.
“Our hearts go out to the parents and families who lost their children in the tragic car accident yesterday night, and to the other children who suffered injuries,” Koblenz said in a statement Thursday.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman also extended his condolences to the families of both boys.
“Our hearts go out to their families,” Blakeman said Thursday. “Rest assured that the perpetrator of that accident will be brought to justice.”
North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said more needs to be done to prevent drunk driving accidents from occurring.
“This is truly a tragedy and my heart aches for the families and friends of these two Roslyn students whose lives were lost in this car accident,” DeSena said in a statement Friday. “Make no mistake, drunk driving is a selfish act, and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but we must continue to do more so we can prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”
Town Councilman Peter Zuckerman stressed the importance of the local Roslyn and North Hempstead communities standing together in this time of tragedy.
“My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims, who are undoubtedly going through an unimaginable amount of pain and sorrow at this time,” Zuckerman said. “As a community, we must come together to support one another during this difficult time. I want to extend my condolences to the Roslyn community.”
The Town of North Hempstead’s Town Hall and The Nassau County Legislative Building were both lit up “tennis ball yellow” in honor of the two boys over the past few days. Village of Roslyn Mayor John Durkin said in an email that the village will be planting two trees in memory of the boys.
Village officials also expressed interest in hanging yellow ribbons on street lamps or light posts along Main Street in remembrance.