Sammy Cohen-Eckstein dies after being hit by van on Prospect Park West

Twelve-year-old hit, killed by van on Prospect Park West

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A 12-year-old Park Slope boy was killed by a van on Tuesday evening after he ran into a street near Prospect Park to fetch his soccer ball and was crushed, authorities said.

Samuel Cohen-Eckstein was playing near his Prospect Park West home near Third Street when the ball rolled out onto Prospect Park West and he sprinted into the two-lane street from the Prospect Park side to chase after it, police said.

The youngster fell as he was running and was struck and run over by a 2006 Chevrolet van at about 5:15 pm, cops said.

Emergency responders found the child with critical injuries to his torso and rushed him to New York Methodist Hospital, where he died, according to police.

The driver of the van remained on scene and was not immediately charged or ticketed, cops said. The investigation is ongoing.

It was not immediately clear whether the driver of the van was speeding, but neighbors say that Prospect Park West is a magnet for lead-footed drivers.

“Parts of the avenue are like a raceway,” said Tom Prendergast of Prospect Park Southwest, adding that drivers have slowed down since a controversial two-way bike lane was installed on the thoroughfare, cutting the car lanes from three to two.

“But there are still drivers that insist on speeding and who are oblivious to pedestrians that are crossing the avenue,” he said.

Cohen-Eckstein was just more than a month from celebrating his bar mitzvah, a Jewish coming-of-age rite, according to a website announcing his occasion. The boy, who friends called Sammy, was an eighth grader at Park Slope’s MS 51 on Fifth Avenue. By Wednesday afternoon, a memorial for Cohen-Eckstein had sprouted in front of the middle school and near where he was fatally struck.

“He was a really amazing person,” said his 15-year-old sister Tamar, who attends Beacon High School in Manhattan.

The youngster’s classmates said that he was a much-loved kid who played soccer and blew trumpet for the school’s jazz band.

“He was a really smart person,” 13-year-old Somia Azzam said. “Everybody loved him.”

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at
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