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Photo courtesy of Evan Kilgore via GoFundMe
Photo courtesy of Evan Kilgore via GoFundMe
Kevin Flores, 13, was killed on Jan. 26 when he was struck by a truck while riding his bike.

As news of the tragic death of 13-year-old Ridgewood native Kevin Flores spread throughout the city, so too did the outpouring of love and support for his grieving family members.

While riding his bike at the corner of Lewis and Jefferson Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Jan. 26, less than a mile from the Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School he attended, Flores was struck and killed by an oil truck. The resident of Seneca Avenue later died at Interfaith Hospital.

The ensuing weekend left officials and educators from Launch scrambling to figure out the best way to talk to their students about the incident and come up with ways to help Kevin’s family. Evan Kilgore, principal of culture at Launch and 15-year veteran in the education sphere, said that he never experienced the death of a student thus far in his career.

“In any situation like this, as educators, our first response is how do we help people?” Kilgore said. “One of the most direct ways was to ensure that money wasn’t an obstacle or distraction in their grieving.”

On Sunday, Jan. 28, Kilgore started a GoFundMe campaign on behalf of the school and will donate all the proceeds to Kevin’s family to help cover the cost of his funeral. The original goal was to raise $10,000, and by Wednesday, Jan. 31, there were already 269 donors that gave a total of $13,175.

Kilgore updated the campaign, thanking those who have donated for their generosity, and raised the goal to $20,000. He also further explained how the money will be used: Kevin’s mother is five months pregnant.

Launch will also look for ways to advocate for justice in Kevin’s death, Kilgore said. The driver of the oil truck, 28-year-old Philip Monfoletto, did not have a proper license to be operating the vehicle. Monfoletto stayed at the scene of the accident, and court records show he was arrested and charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree and the second degree, which are misdemeanor offenses.

Court records also show that Monfoletto was charged for unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle twice in 2017. He is currently being held on $2,500 bond or $2,500 cash bail and is due back in court on March 14, 2018.

On Wednesday, state Senator Michael Gianaris released a statement in the wake of Kevin’s death calling for the passing of a bill he introduced in 2013 after another young boy was killed when hit by a truck. According to the press release, even with aggravating circumstances, the charges Monfoletto received can only become a class E felony, punishable by a maximum of four years’ imprisonment.

Gianaris’ proposed bill would increase the penalty to a class D felony if the accident results in a death.

“This accident is yet another avoidable tragedy caused by a driver who should not have been behind the wheel to begin with,” said Gianaris in the statement. “Too many lives have been lost at the hands of drivers whose licenses are suspended or otherwise invalid because the punishment does not match the crime.”

When the students from Launch went to their first class on the Monday after losing their classmate, Kilgore said every room began the day by sitting in a circle and talking about what happened. There were plenty of questions and some sadness, but the circles mostly became a “wonderful space with lots of laughter and celebration,” Kilgore said, as Kevin’s friends shared stories and said what they loved most about him.

Kevin is remembered for being a driven and talented artist who was already preparing his applications for some of the city’s most selective arts high schools. He loved his bicycle and learned how to repair it himself through the school’s Recycle-A-Bicycle program. Kevin was also a big fan of the clothing brand Supreme and was inspired to work on his own fashion designs.

In one such design, which Kilgore shared on the GoFundMe page, a digital drawing of a red rose with green leaves has a quote written by Kevin above it:

“Everyone has ups and downs in life, all you gotta do is put your head up and think positive, don’t ever let a person put you down :)”

Original artwork by Kevin Flores

Original artwork by Kevin Flores

Original artwork by Kevin Flores

Original artwork by Kevin Flores

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