Remembering Ava Conklin

 Remembering Ava Conklin

By Katie McFadden

“She had much more to give,” a devastated Colleen Brady, said of her late niece. In her 19 years, Ava Mairead Conklin gave love, joy, talent, kindness and so much more to the world and to all of those who had the pleasure of meeting her. On Saturday, June 24, that was all cut short when Ava was killed in an unimaginable tragedy.

The teen had just completed her first year at Vermont State University Lyndon Campus, where she was studying to become a child psychologist. She was looking forward to a beautiful summer with family and friends, in between working shifts as a hostess at The Pool House at The Rockaway Hotel, a job she had done previously, working at another In Good Company Hospitality property, the Park Avenue Tavern, not too far from her Hell’s Kitchen home where she lived with her mother, Chrissy Collins. This summer, she got the gig at The Rockaway Hotel, not too far from where her father, Matthew Conklin and stepmother, Jennifer Duffy, live in Broad Channel.

Ava had just finished up another shift when she stepped into another role she excelled at—big sister. She was waiting for her stepsister, 14-year-old Peyton, to get off of the bus at Beach 108th and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, to take her on the ferry to Manhattan for an afternoon in Central Park with friends. What was supposed to be a fun summer day turned into a nightmare for Ava and those who love her.

At 2:14 p.m., Ava had sent a silly selfie to her family while waiting at the bus stop. Just a few minutes later, a white 2021 Hyundai Venue jumped the sidewalk, hitting two metal benches at the bus stop and crashing into Ava. As her sister, Peyton, stepped off the bus, she arrived to the horrific scene, finding her sister laying on the ground, with her favorite music still playing in her headphones, as Peyton told the New York Daily News.

With no trauma hospital on the peninsula, Ava was rushed to Brookdale University Hospital in Brooklyn, but she could not be saved. Ava was just a little more than a month away from her 20th birthday when her life was taken from her.

A 29-year-old male driver working for auto parts store, Parts Authority, was initially arrested and questioned and allegedly told police that he had fallen asleep behind the wheel after working late night. The driver was later released without charges, but that may change as the investigation continues. Witnesses and family believe there may be more to the story than the driver falling asleep. “You have to turn from Beach 102nd or Beach 105th to drive west on that block and there’s lights there. How are you speeding, and you fall asleep from 105th to 108th?” Brady said.

The accident comes just two weeks after the city celebrated the completion of the newly re-done streets and safety improvements around Beach 108th Street. Among those changes was extending the sidewalk where Ava was waiting, into the right-side lane where buses pull up to the curb.

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the man behind the wheel. The family is awaiting the results of a toxicology report that will determine if the driver was under the influence, which will determine the appropriate charges for the driver. Video footage obtained from Walgreens will also help to paint a better picture of exactly what happened on Saturday afternoon. “Whether he was sleeping, or it was something else, we won’t know until we get the toxicology report,” Brady said. “Either way, it’s tragic. The minimum they’ll get him on is manslaughter. He’s still responsible and shouldn’t have been behind the wheel. She was innocent and this never should have happened.”

Since Saturday’s tragedy, Ava’s friends, family and co-workers have been navigating the shock and sorrow of losing a young woman who was a light in their lives. An obituary for the young girl said her “radiant spirit and kind nature touched the lives of all who knew her. Her capacity to love knew no bounds, as she had a heart filled with affection for everyone and everything around her.”

Kelly McGee, a manager of Park Avenue Tavern, where Ava used to work, shared, “Ava Conklin was one of the sweetest souls to walk this earth. She was ALWAYS smiling, the kind of smile that came from the heart. She radiated goodness, kindness and light.  As she left her shift, she said goodbye to all that crossed her path, not knowing it would be her last. An absolute senseless tragedy that can’t possibly be understood. The sweetest innocence taken from us in an instant.  Lovingly described as a ‘Fairy on Earth,’ she sprinkled joy to all she met.  We were all better for knowing her. Ava was an absolute treasure and will be sorely missed.”

Brady said, “How do you explain someone who wouldn’t even kill a bug? She loved everything, she loved life. She was just sweet and kind. An amazing sister and cousin,” she said. Conklin was one of six among her expanded family, including her siblings, sister, Emma, brother, Hudson, sister, Dylan, and her stepsisters, Gabriella and Peyton. Brady went on to describe Ava as someone who loved to travel and had amazing talent. “She was involved in acting and singing and dancing. She got a scholarship to the Rosie O’Donnell theater group for four years. Living in Manhattan, she was heavily involved in theater,” she said. In 2021, Ava graduated from Talent Unlimited High School in Manhattan.

On Monday, Brady says Ava’s Manhattan family, friends and teachers all came out for a vigil for the young girl at the pier on 55th Street. “It was an absolutely beautiful showing,” Brady said, ahead of getting ready for Ava’s wake on Wednesday afternoon at Crestwood Funeral Home on West 43rd Street.  On the morning of Thursday, June 29, a funeral Mass is being held at Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church on West 51st Street.

And on Friday, June 30, at 7:30 p.m., Ava Conklin will be remembered locally. A celebration of life will be held at the spot where her life was cut short, at the northeast corner of Beach 108th and Rockaway Beach Blvd. near Walgreens. A makeshift memorial has already started to form at the site, with flowers, balloons and teddy bears being placed in and around the fence. The street will be closed around the area on Friday for an expected large crowd.

In the meantime, the families are navigating a world without Ava Mairead Conklin. “It feels like there’s a piece missing now,” Brady said.

Our thoughts are with the Conklin, Collins, Duffy and Donohue families. If you’d like to help the family with meals, funeral expenses or in other ways, donations can be made on Meal Train (, through Venmo to Jessica Guttieri on behalf of the Broad Channel Athletic Club, where Ava’s father plays an active role (@Jessica-Guttieri), or to the Collins family on GoFundMe (

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