Old Westbury soccer player dies in car crash

Rose Weldon
SUNY-Old Westbury student-athlete Tania Bonilla was killed in an accident on the Southern State Parkway last weekend. (Photo courtesy of SUNY-Old Westbury)

A SUNY-Old Westbury student-athlete was killed in a car accident last weekend.

Tania Bonilla, 19, had been driving a 2019 Honda Civic with four passengers traveling eastbound on the Southern State Parkway in Bay Shore early in the morning on July 18, according to a statement by the State Police.

Bonilla was in the left lane at the Exit 41A northbound ramp to the Sagtikos State Parkway shortly before 3 a.m. when the car left the roadway. The driver’s side of the car struck a guide rail on the right shoulder, police said.

Bonilla was taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore where she died from her injuries, police said. The four passengers in the car were transported to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, with non-life threatening injuries.

A native of Brentwood who graduated from the area’s high school in 2019 after three years on the girls’ varsity soccer team, Bonilla served as a defender in her freshman season for SUNY-Old Westbury’s women’s soccer team, and started in 13 of her 18 game appearances, providing assists in crucial game moments against Mitchell College on Oct. 9, 2019, and on Oct. 30, 2019 against Purchase College, with her assist in the latter helping in taking the Panthers to the conference championship for the first time since 2015 as the No. 6 seed.

Bonilla, a criminology major, also excelled in the classroom, landing on the Fall 2019 Athletic Director’s Academic Honor Roll, and participated in community service projects, including the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee’s annual Turkey Trot.

Head women’s soccer coach Betty Bohringer said in a statement that the school’s soccer community was “completely devastated” about Bonilla’s death.

“Tania’s life was cut much too short and she had so much to share and experience with us,” Bohringer said. “She made us all better people and players. A piece of us died along with her and we hope that she had our strength and comfort as she passed. It will be a long time if we ever can move on from the unexplained timeliness from this accident.”

Bohringer added that the team would be honoring Bonilla when they resumed their soccer season in the fall.

The university’s president, The Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, expressed “heartfelt condolences” to Bonilla’s family in a statement.

“We mourn today the life of a student who passed too soon, but let us also remember Tania fondly and offer our hopes for strength and peace to her loved ones and teammates in this difficult time,” Butts said.

An Instagram post memorializing Bonilla from Brentwood High School’s varsity women’s soccer team called her “an amazing person with a beautiful soul that was taken way too soon.”

“Heaven gained an angel today, and we pray for the family during this difficult time,” the post adds.

Bonilla can be seen playing for the Brentwood varsity girls’ soccer team in the short documentary “We Are Brentwood,” which followed the team during their 2017-18 season.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by Bonillas’ cousin Ana Campos to assist her family in covering funeral costs.

“Tania’s parents and siblings are going through a great deal of pain and stress at the moment,” Campos wrote on the GoFundMe page. “In times of need our community always comes together with generosity and support, and I hope that everyone can come together for this.”

So far, over 559 contributors have donated $27,809, reaching over the campaign’s $20,000 goal. Efforts to reach Campos were unavailing.

Bonilla is survived by her parents and siblings. No details on the burial have yet been given.

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