FLATBUSH – Isaiah Benloss, 18, was in a Lyft car coming back home to his family after spending the night at his friend’s house. The car was just a three-minute drive away from his home in Flatbush when the crash occurred.
Around 3:40 a.m. on August 18, the car Benloss was in was heading northbound on Ocean Avenue as an Audi with New Jersey plates was heading eastbound on Beverly Road, and crashed into it in front of the St. Marks United Methodist Church, sending both the 34-year-old Lyft driver and his 18-year-old passenger to the hospital in critical condition.
His mother, Jajayra Espada didn’t hear about the crash until around 6 a.m. when a family member called her telling her Benloss was in the hospital. The first thing she asked was, “Is he OK?”
“You know, I am the one who told Isaiah to take cabs. I tell him there’s so much danger because of all these shootings. I tell him I don’t think it’s safe to walk or take the subway. I told him to take a cab. He was just listening to his mother,” Espada said softly. “It’s a nightmare to get a phone call that your teenager was in a crash. He wasn’t hanging out. He wasn’t at a party. He was just coming home.”
Right away, Benloss went through emergency brain surgery. His head was hit really hard, his mother explained. He also has fractures all over his body, including his legs, and is currently in a medically induced coma. Espada is just waiting for him to wake up.
“He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t open his eyes. He doesn’t move. I thought he moved the other day, but the doctor said it was probably a reflex,” Espada told us from the hospital. Over the phone, the “beep, beep, beep” of the machines were loud in the background. She said she spends almost all her time sitting next to her son, only going home to check on her two younger kids and to take a shower. She doesn’t want to leave him.
“I feel broken. I feel like someone took my heart out of my chest. As a mother, you have to stay strong for your kids,” she said. “I have two other kids. I have to be strong for them also. I am trying to be strong for Isaiah. He’ll get through this. He’ll recover. And he’ll get better.”
Benloss graduated from Lincoln High School this spring and was enrolled at the College of Staten Island. He played varsity basketball when he was in high school, and plays it every single chance he gets, including at the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club on Bedford Avenue. In fact, he wants to be a professional basketball player when he grows up. If not that, then definitely a basketball coach, his mom explained.
“He’s a good kid. He gets good grades, he plays ball, and he stayed out of trouble,” Espada said. “He was focused. I’ve never seen an 18-year-old who is so focused. He was so focused on trying to do the best for himself and not falling into the category of teenagers doing awful things.”
Espada recalled how Benloss was very upset when classes turned virtual. She said he had worked so hard during high school and wanted to walk on graduation. She said she remembers explaining to him that it’s fine, and when things get better, he could do it then.
“He made sure he went to college straight after high school,” she said. “He didn’t want to take a break, because sometimes kids take breaks and they end up not going.”
In June, Benloss began working in Patient Relations at the Kings County Hospital. His role included screening people coming in and out of the building for their temperatures. And now, he’s in a coma inside the same hospital. His mother said she feels so helpless.
“You know, you have a kid that’s sick, you help them, you feed them, and nurture them back to help, and make sure they don’t get sick again. You prevent it,” she said. “In this situation, I feel like I can’t do anything but sit and wait and have faith that he’ll pull through it.”
Espada explained that she feels mentally, physically, and emotionally destroyed. She feels empty. She said she wants to prevent something like this from happening to others. No mother should have to feel this way, she said.
Last week, we reported on the dangerous Ocean Avenue. In the month of July alone, there were 17 crashes on Ocean Avenue. Espada said this needs to change.
“We have to get the people who are running the streets not caring about anyone, off the streets. It could be your family member next,” she said. “A lot of the time, crashes are done by ignorant people. We have to get them off streets and make sure they aren’t doing this to someone else’s family. Something has to be done. This is going way too far.”
The NYPD is classifying this crash as a hit and run, as the three occupants of the Audi all fled on foot. As of today, no arrests have been made. It pains Espada knowing that her son isn’t getting justice and that the people responsible are still out there.
“They got away and got that chance to do it again. And as human beings, they didn’t have the heart to say ‘Yes, I made a mistake and I’m sorry for it,'” she said. “They are going to end up doing it again and it will be someone else’s family going through what I’m going through. Just come forward and take responsibility. It was an accident. Don’t do it again. Be cautious.”
Doctors have told Espada that it will be a long recovery. They told her to take it one minute, one day at a time. Espada said that sometimes it’s really hard to sit there and listen to the truth about your son’s health. Sometimes, you don’t want to hear what is happening to your child, she said, because it hurts so much. To prepare for the long journey, Espada is trying to mentally and physically prepare herself. She is a single mother and is not able to attend work as she’s caring for her son. She explained that she can’t eat or even think straight. She said she can’t function anymore. So her family and friends created a GoFundMe page to help pay for medical bills and to help support Espada and her family as they get through this.
And right now, there’s not much for Espada to do than sit and wait for her son to open his eyes. We asked, “What is the first thing you will tell him when he wakes up?” She paused and then spoke softly.
“First I’ll say ‘Thank God!'” she said. “Then I’m going to tell him how much I love him.”
To donate to their cause, check out the GoFundMe page here.