One Year Without Ava

 One Year Without Ava

By Katie McFadden

On a windy Monday, June 24, family, friends and neighbors gathered on the corner of Beach 108th Street and Rockaway Beach Blvd. to celebrate the life of someone whose life was taken too soon. It’s been one year since 19-year-old Ava Conklin was tragically killed at the site.

A DSNY bagpiper opened the memorial ceremony with some tunes before Ava’s aunt, Kathleen Donohue, spoke to the crowd that gathered to pay their respects at the memorial that was set up a few days after Ava was hit by a driver while waiting for her little sister to get off of the bus. “It’s been a year since that fateful day when our hearts were torn from our chests, and we were left to navigate this world without her. Despite the passage of time, it still feels like yesterday that we were struck by the devastating news of her tragic death,” Donohue said. She recalled the events of that day, having seen Ava just a few hours before she died. Her son, Hunter, Ava’s cousin, brought Ava her favorite coffee, Rocket Fuel, at work at the Rockaway Hotel, so he could give her one last hug before the family left to go to a birthday party. “Never in a million years did I think that would be the last one,” Donohue said through tears.

She spoke about the talented young woman who was “an old soul,” who “enjoyed life to the fullest.” She shared memories they made on a family trip to the Bahamas. And she spoke of the signs that Ava still sends the family, letting them know she is at peace, and that she is always with them. Donohue ended with a Mac Miller quote that Ava loved, “I love life, thank you.”

Ava’s father, Matt Conklin of Broad Channel, reiterated that message. “Ava would want us to celebrate her life and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.

Conklin recently announced that in a unanimous vote in City Council, that the corner will be renamed after Ava Conklin in the future, as a more permanent memorial to the young girl.

The family continues to seek justice as they keep Ava’s memory alive. They hope to fight for legislation that may help families in situations like theirs in the future. As for the man who was behind the wheel when he struck Ava on June 24, 2023, claiming that he fell asleep, he faces a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving, rather than a felony charge that the family was hoping for. Daniel Sails may face only 30 days in jail for the charge if found guilty. The next court date will be a hearing on July 9 at 9 a.m. at Queens Supreme Criminal Court.

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