Everglades Airboat Tragedy in Miami – UM Graduate 22 Years Old Dies

By: Tonya Alanez and Anne Geggis Contact Reporter Sun Sentinel

An Everglades airboat ride with her parents and sister turned deadly for a University of Miami student just one day after her graduation.

Elizabeth “Ellie” Goldenberg, 22, and four others were thrown from the vessel late Saturday morning in the Wildlife Management Area, 12 miles west of Krome Avenue, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman.

Goldenberg died from her injuries at Kendall Regional Medical Center. Her sister, Dana Goldenberg, 20, was hospitalized with minor injuries, said Rob Klepper, the wildlife commission spokesman.

Goldenberg’s parents, David and Renee, both 54, of Hummelstown, Pa., were not injured in the crash.

Goldenberg’s mother, Renee Flax-Goldenberg, was en route to a funeral home to make final arrangements when reached by telephone Monday afternoon. “We loved her, we miss her. It’s a tremendous loss to the world that she was taken so young,” she said. “I’m a mourning mother … and it’s a criminal investigation, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to speak about the circumstances in which she died.”

Goldenberg earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, magna cum laude, from the university on Friday.

Citing an open investigation, Klepper declined to provide additional details about the crash, including who owned the vessel or who was piloting it. “At this time, I am unable to state whether or not this boating incident investigation will result in any charges,” Klepper said.

The fifth person on board the boat was Steve George Gagne, 52, of Miami, according to Klepper. He has worked as an airboat captain in the past, records show.

Goldenberg’s mother said that Goldenberg’s funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at Kesher Israel Synagogue in Harrisburg, Pa. Late Monday afternoon, a memorial service was held on campus at the Jerry Herman Ring Theater.

A fellow theater student, Ashley Bombino, 21, said she learned the tragic news of Goldenberg’s death in an email from the department. “It didn’t seem real,” Bombino said by telephone Monday. “Ellie was just beyond a light. Whoever is hurting because of this, just please know she is watching over us and will always provide a light in our lives.”

In a tribute posted to Facebook, Bombino reflected on Goldenberg’s inspirational, outsized personality.

“Ellie Goldenberg you were a shining star and the happiest of people I have ever met. You were so talented and such a beautiful soul that I still can’t believe you’re gone,” she wrote. “Thank you for always making me laugh whenever we had to do fittings for shows, being wonderful backstage while performances ran and most of all being there to talk whenever I felt low.”

Goldenberg’s UM debut was in an ensemble of “Carmen,” and her most recent performance was the role of Ilse in “Spring Awakening,” according to the Miami Hurricane, the university’s student newspaper.

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