At World Trade Center, tragedy strikes beloved rower

By Jim Hague & Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Sports Writer & Observer Correspondent

Jenny Santos

NEW YORK CITY – 

A 29-year-old Kearny woman died Saturday morning, Feb. 11, at the World Trade Center’s transport hub after she fell from an escalator at 30 feet high, according to reports.

Jenny Santos (not a relative of Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos) was on the lift with her sister at around 5:30 a.m., when, according to reports, Santos’ sister lost grip of her hat. When Jenny Santos tried to retrieve it, she reportedly fell 30 feet to her death onto the main concourse at the Trade Center’s new transportation hub, known commonly as the Oculus.

An eyewitness at the scene told the press Santos very likely died instantly, given the height from which she fell – and the force of the impact when she hit the ground.

“It’s hard to describe what I saw, but I will say it’s very likely she didn’t suffer at all,” the eyewitness said. “It had to be instant.”

Santos was a 2006 alumna of Kearny High School, where she was a three-year member of the girls’ varsity crew team. David Paszkiewicz, Santos’ coach on the KHS girls’ varsity crew team, took time over the weekend to remember her fondly.

“I had the honor and privilege of being Jenny’s KHS varsity crew coach for three years. She had a very sweet disposition with a great sense of humor,” Paszkiewicz said. “Despite her sweet disposition, however, she was a very tough athlete who developed into a highly skilled member of our varsity lightweight eight.

“I remember Jenny as an athlete with a solid work ethic who was well respected and loved by her teammates. She was a pleasure to coach and an absolute joy to be around.

“Hearing about the tragedy was heartbreaking. She was a beautiful, intelligent young lady of character with a brilliant future ahead of her. I ran into her last spring at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta in Philadelphia and was overjoyed to learn that she was there as an assistant coach for the Bergen County Rowing Academy.

“In fact, her head coach paid me a visit at the race just to share what an asset Jenny had become to their team. It was a proud moment for her former coach. In short, in the brief time God graced the world with Jenny’s presence, she made a tremendous impact for good on those around her.

“My thoughts and prayers are with her mom and her equally wonderful sisters: Jessica and Amanda. (both are also KHS crew alumni.)

Mickey Rusek, the former girls’ soccer coach at Kearny, also had the chance to coach Santos during her scholastic days.

“She was on our junior varsity team, but decided not to come out her senior year,” Rusek said. “I remember her in the tryouts as being a pleasant kid, a hard worker who was willing to learn. She was well liked by everyone. She was just a great person. She was always asking what she could do to become a better player. Her work ethic was second to none. She just needed to play more in the offseason.”

Both coaches raved of Santos’ personality.

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Paszkiewicz said. “She was so vibrant and full of life. You don’t expect something like this to happen. It’s quite a shock. My heart goes out to her family. I’ll tell you, it was a real special moment knowing that I had coached this girl and now she’s out there coaching as well. I thought she had so much to offer. I’ll always remember her sense of humor. She was a joy to be around.”

“She was a doll,” Rusek said. “She was everything you wanted from a student/athlete. She was a young lady with a tremendous personality. It’s such a loss.”

On the Facebook page for the aforementioned Bergen County Rowing Academy, officials there took time to announce Santos’ untimely death and to offer praise for her work there.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I am writing this post. Our own coach Jenny Santos had an accident today (Feb. 11) at the World Trade Center PATH station, and passed away,” the academy wrote. “She will be greatly missed by our rowers, and everyone who knew her. Our hearts go out to her mother, Maria Santos, and her sisters, Amanda and Jessica Santos.”

An acquaintance of Santos, who asked only to be identified at Shirley, said Jenny and her sister, twin Jessica, (they have another sister as well) were always together.

“They were absolutely inseparable,” Shirley said. “I just cannot even imagine the devastation Jessica is experiencing. She watched her sister go before her very eyes – and there was absolutely nothing she could do to help. My God this is just horrible.”

Published reports say Santos was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital in New York. Her sister was treated at the same hospital for trauma, the report said.

After graduating KHS, Santos went on to study physical education at William Paterson University, Wayne. After she earned a bachelor’s degree, she was a substitute teacher in both Hoboken and Kearny. In September, she was hired to be a full-time phys ed teacher at East Orange Community Charter School.

She coached crew at the Bergen County Rowing Academy. In addition to teaching, she also worked for Marshalls in Kearny for 10+ years. She was an outdoors person who loved tennis, baseball, the New York Yankees, movies and music – and she loved to travel the world.

The daughter of Maria Arlinda Santos and the late Manuel Santos, Jenny was the loving granddaughter of Maria Eugenia Correia, the cherished sister of Amanda Tiffany Santos and her twin Jessica Christina Santos.

Relatives and friends may visit the Shaw-Buyus Home for Services, 138 Davis Ave., at Bergen Ave., Kearny, on Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. The funeral Mass will be celebrated Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Holy Name of Jesus Church, East Orange, (at a time to be determined). Interment will be in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

Santos’ family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Jenny’s memory to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, www.lls.org.

The Observer Staff