Brooklyn community mourns expectant parents killed in car crash

Holly Bailey
National Correspondent
The Lookout

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Raizy Glauber had just wrapped up a dinner with her family when she suddenly began feeling sharp abdominal pains. Six months pregnant with her first child, Glauber and her husband of less than a year, Nathan, members of Brooklyn's tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community, called a livery cab to take them from the apartment in their Williamsburg neighborhood to a hospital about two miles away. It was just before midnight on Saturday.

A few minutes later, four blocks from their home, the couple’s cab was struck broadside by what police say was a speeding BMW sedan. Raizy Glauber was thrown from the car, her body discovered more than 10 minutes after the crash under a parked tractor-trailer on the other side of the street. Nathan Glauber had to be cut out of the car by first responders. Both just 21-years-old, Raizy and Nathan were each pronounced dead upon arrival at nearby hospitals.

In what family members initially seized upon as a miracle, the Glauber's baby boy was delivered prematurely by postmortem cesarian section. Doctors gave the child a 50/50 chance of survival, said a family friend who declined to be named. But on Monday morning, the baby died, too—compounding the grief and shock of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, an insular society that has been heavily shaken by the tragedy.

The couple were members of Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidic sect. On Sunday, thousands of grief-stricken mourners turned out for their funeral at a Williamsburg synagogue—the men, dressed in large, fedora-type hats, separated from the women, who wore black berets or scarves over their heads.

On Monday, as the grieving continued, police kept at their search for the suspected driver of the BMW, identified by a New York Police Department spokesman as 44-year-old Julio Acevedo. Witnesses say the driver, along with a female passenger, left the car—also mangled—at the scene of the crash and fled by foot.

“Unfortunately, in my line of work, you see a lot of tragedies and you get accustomed to it, but not this one,” said an emotional Rabbi Mayer Berger, director of operations for Chesed Shel Emes, a group that helps Orthodox families comply with Jewish law when burying their loved ones. Berger was among the first on the accident scene and rode with Raizy Glauber to the hospital.

“This is one of those tragedies you don’t get accustomed to," he said. "This one stays engraved in your brain forever.”

Berger described a chaotic scene at the hospital: on one side of the room, Raizy Glauber’s lifeless body and, on the other, her baby boy surrounded by family members thankful he was alive: “The happiness that was on one side of the room versus the tragedy on the other side was unbelievable."

In helping the family fill out the paperwork to release Raizy Glauber's body, Berger said he was overcome by another wave of grief.

Raizy "was born March 4, 1991,” Berger said Monday, speaking to a reporter just steps from the intersection at Kent Avenue and Wilson Street where the Glaubers were killed. “She died the day before her 22nd birthday. Her baby passed away on the day of her birthday. These are just things that just shock you, and it just stays with you for a long time.”

The intersection where the couple died was busy on Monday. Dozens of mourners made their way past the site, some laying flowers at a makeshift memorial on the sidewalk. Across the street, NYPD officials had erected an electronic billboard asking for tips in what the sign said was a “fatal hit and run.”

Meanwhile, local elected officials, along with Jewish leaders, announced a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the driver of the BMW. They also called on the city to make the intersection safer by installing traffic lights or speed cameras, and to enact tougher penalties on hit-and-run drivers, arguing that anyone who leaves the scene of an accident should be automatically charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“There’s no redemption that can be found in the loss of two young people who had just gotten started and a third who was going to join the world … but as a community we must do what we can to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future,” state Sen. Daniel Squadron said at a press conference.

As Squadron spoke to reporters, the danger of the intersection was clear. At least three times during the press conference, a vehicle pulling off Wilson Street nearly collided with vehicles traveling north on Kent Avenue.

“This is dangerous!” state Assemblyman David Weprin declared at one point. “Where are the traffic lights?”

Outside Raizy Glauber's parents’ apartment building a few blocks away, a relative declined to talk, telling a reporter that the news of the baby’s death early Monday was another incomprehensible blow.

“The effect of this tragedy on the community is beyond belief. It’s unspeakable,” Isaac Abraham, a Jewish leader and spokesman for the Orthodox community in Williamsburg, told Yahoo News. “It is as if your own children had died. All we can do is unite around this family and help them.”

Abraham said the driver of the BMW should be charged with “triple homicide.” He offered a warning to the at-large suspect, saying he should turn himself in to police “before we find you.”

He added, “You might run, but you cannot hide. Somebody is going to find you—either law enforcement will find you, or we will find you. ... You will be brought to justice for this. You will pay."