SILVER SPRING – A Walter Johnson High School student remained in the intensive care unit in critical condition after being struck while crossing Montrose Road to board his school bus on Dec. 13.
Eyal Haddad, a 17-year-old senior, was struck while crossing Montrose Road at Bargate Court on his way to the school bus, located on the far right lane. Reine Ngoumou Nee Nganzeu, 61, of Rockville, was driving a 2018 Jeep Renegade that ended up hitting Haddad. The driver was not injured and remained on the scene, according to police.
Haddad, who was born in Israel and has lived in this area for about six years, is an active member of Chabad Israeli Center of Rockville. He was taken to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, which is the state-designated trauma center in the region.
“He is critical but stable,” said his Rabbi Shlomo Beitsh on Dec. 24.
Beitsh described Haddad as “a friendly, caring boy. He has a lot of friends” and was planning on going to college in the fall. Beitsh has visited Haddad frequently and said his family has been at the hospital “the whole time.”
“Doctors are optimistic,” Betish said. “We pray that very soon he will be out.”
The teenager is one of five children. He has an older sister and three younger brothers. The family is very involved at the Chabad Israeli Center, according to their rabbi.
A GoFundMe fundraiser was set up online and began raising money “to support Eyal’s recovery.” As of Dec. 27, 853 people had donated a total of $61,154 toward the goal of $118,000.
The latest update on that page stated, “Eyal is still in ICU, surrounded with love and so many posters and cards wishing him (a) speedy recovery. Thank you all for the amazing support!”
Rabbi Beitsh suggested that besides making a financial contribution, “People can dedicate a good deed for his recovery,” as Haddad was an active volunteer in the community.
“He’s the one who always gets his friends to come” and help out on projects, including a regular program in which students clean and do gardening at Chesed Shel Emes Cemetery in Capitol Heights, Md.
Teens at the Chabad Israeli Center of Rockville also take an annual trip to New York where they study and see the sights.
“He’s the one who organizes the group,” Beitsh said.
Walter Johnson Principal Jennifer Baker sent two letters home following the tragic accident. She expressed concern for all students who were impacted, including those who witnessed the accident.
“Our thoughts are with the student, their family and friends,” she wrote. “We know this is very difficult news for our community,” she said, adding that counseling staff and psychologists are available “to support students who wish to talk.”
Members of B’Nai Israel Congregation in North Bethesda also received an email from Moshe Ben-Lev, education director at the synagogue’s Talmud Torah religious school. It stated that its fourth grade Hebrew teacher is Haddad’s mother.
“We have communicated to Osnat our love, support and eagerness to help in any way that we can,” Ben-Lev said. “We pray for a speedy and complete recovery for Eyal, support for the Haddad family, and wisdom and compassion for all who are entrusted with Eyal’s care.”
According to Montgomery County Police Department, the accident occurred at 7:18 a.m. when Haddad “was attempting to cross eastbound Montrose Road to board a Montgomery County Public School bus.” All county school buses have cameras, and police still are reviewing the incident.
Charges had not been filed as of Dec. 24, noted police spokesperson Capt. C. Thomas Jordan.
The day before Haddad’s incident, a nine-year-old girl was killed after being hit by a school bus. She was a student at Bradley Hills Elementary School in Bethesda.
According to Montgomery County Police, a little after 3:45 p.m. on Dec. 12, the young girl was struck at the intersection of Millwood Road and Tanglewood Drive. The preliminary investigation showed that the bus driver had unloaded the students, including the girl who was hit, and began turned right onto northbound Millwood Road when “for reasons still under investigation, the 9-year-old female was struck by the bus.”
The fourth grader was taken to Children’s National Hospital, where she died.
So far this year, 14 people have been killed, and nearly 600 incidents involving bicyclists and pedestrians have taken place throughout the county, according to Councilman Evan Glass.