A community, a school and a family are mourning the loss of one of their own after a horrible accident that occurred during a family vacation in Iceland.
On Saturday, Oct. 12, St. Mary’s High School senior and New Hyde Park resident Zachary Zabatta, along with his sisters Sophia and Gabriella and his parents James and Barbara, were on a family vacation in Iceland when they were involved in a horrific car accident. According to Icelandic authorities, the family were passengers in a vehicle that went off the road and rolled multiple times before landing on its side in the peninsula of Snæfellsnes. Zachary tragically succumbed to his injuries while the rest of his family is currently hospitalized where it is unclear as to when they will be able to return back home.
A GoFundMe page was started for the Zabatta family by some of their family members to help raise funds that will ease some of the enormous financial burden that lies ahead of them. The funds collected will be primarily used for medical costs, logistical expenses of being stranded in a foreign country, transportation and funeral costs. Additional monies raised will be used to create a scholarship fund in Zachary’s name.
As of publication Sophia, who is a student at Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, is still in serious condition, but recently woke up from an induced coma. Gabriella has a fractured pelvis and sternum and is in a lot of pain. Sophia and Gabriella are getting stronger each day. Zachary’s father, James, was bleeding internally from his spleen and was recently operated on and is doing better. He also has a badly bruised right shoulder and is in a lot of pain. Zachary’s mother, Barbara, has a badly bruised sternum, fractured ribs and is in a lot of pain as well.
“His teachers and classmates at Saint Mary’s High School remember Zachary as a young man who was unfailingly humble, kind and generous, known for his gentle personality and a warm smile,” said St. Mary’s High School principal Gerard J. Buckley. “Zach never sought to be the center of attention even as he achieved incredible academic success. He often volunteered for various causes with St. Mary’s, including Project Rebuild, an annual initiative where students donate their Easter break to help impoverished communities in need of home repairs in West Virginia. In Zach’s time with us, he left an indelible mark on our school. Zach always shined as one of the highest achieving students in his class. Yet if you ask any of his teachers, we would tell you one of his greatest gifts was his humility.”
The high school’s team of counselors, social workers, and clergy members were immediately present to administer to students, who worked tirelessly to provide emotional and spiritual support to students, who are so vulnerable during the fragile time.
“Our fellow Catholic high schools across Long Island dispatched staff counselors, and administrators from the Diocese of Rockville Centre Department of Education joined us to assist with grief counseling for the entire school community,” said Director of Communications for St. Mary’s High School Eileen Symmons. “Services will continue to be readily available.”
Upon returning to school on Oct. 15, the entire school family gathered in the Church of Saint Mary at 8 a.m. During the prayer service, Reverend Father Robert A. Romeo, pastor of the Church of Saint Mary, reminded the hundreds gathered that when the news is so raw, people need to grieve and mourn together.
“He encouraged all to share their stories of Zach because these are the stories that make up the fabric of his life,” said Symmons. “He pleaded for all to find strength in each other as we journey forward, together in Christ. To pray for Zach, for his family and to seek help in coping with this loss.”
A second prayer service took place in the church that afternoon. Students were led by Fr. Bob and St. Mary’s High School President Dr. Joseph R. McCleary, in the recitation of the rosary. Zachary and his family are remembered each day in the school’s morning prayers.
A private prayer service was held this week for students and their families to pray for Zach and his family’s safe return.
Sewanhaka High School principal Dr. Christopher Salinas also released a statement about the tragic accident.
“Sophia Zabatta, a student of ours, and her family were involved in a very tragic automobile accident while on vacation,” said Salinas. “This is a tragedy for the Sewanhaka High School community and our thoughts are with the Zabatta family. We need to be here for each other at this difficult time. Counselors, teachers and other support personnel have been, and will continue to be, available to students, teachers and parents on an ongoing basis.”
If you would like to help the Zabatta family and donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/fundraiser-for-zabatta-family-tragedy.