Vigil pays tribute to 3 kids who drowned at Coney Island beach; mother awaits arraignment

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Friday, September 16, 2022
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A tribute took place Thursday to honor the three children who drowned in the water off Coney Island beach Monday morning. CeFaan Kim has the details.

CONEY ISLAND, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A tribute in Brooklyn honored three children who drowned in the water off Coney Island beach Monday morning.

The loss of three beautiful children was felt hard Thursday. Family and friends gathered at West 35th Street and the boardwalk to remember and share their grief for the children.

All three, 7-year-old Zachery Merdy, 4-year-old Liliana Merdy and 3-month-old Oliver Bondarev, were taken away so suddenly and tragically early Monday, many are still in so much disbelief as to how this happened.

The children's mother, 30-year-old Erin Merdy, is accused of drowning them. They were found on the shoreline of a Coney Island beach after an extensive search.

She was charged Wednesday with three counts of murder.

For each victim, she is charged with murder, murder with depraved indifference to human life and murder with victim under 11 years old.

Merdy remained hospitalized Thursday night at NYU Langone Hospital Brooklyn. She has yet to be arraigned.

Meanwhile, mourners released balloons in honor of the children and told happier stories, all to keep their memories alive.

It's been a week of sorrow for so many, including Derrick Merdy. His son Zachery, one of the three children who died.

"He was my best friend, he was my best friend, the joy he used to give me was unmatched," Derrick Merdy said.

The 7-year-old played football and was the center of all laughs. His father lives in Virginia and had visitation rights to his son and was planning on fighting for custody this fall, but with that no longer an option, he's now holding on to all the memories.

"He loved cars, just a good kid overall. He had a YouTube channel. He liked to play games," he said.

Allen McFarland coached the 7-year-old.

"It breaks me that you think that you're going with the safest person in the world. Your mother. The safest person you could be with in the world, your mom. And that can be your last walk. That is traumatizing on so many levels," football coach Allen McFarland said.

His mother, Erin Merdy, has prior incidents of harassment and aggravated harassment that did not result in charges, but she has no prior arrests or a history of being emotionally disturbed.

Police say the actions appear to be premeditated and not something that occurred at the spur of a moment, and detectives are looking into her past and interviewing neighbors and relatives to determine what had transpired.

The Administration for Children's Services declined to discuss whether they should have been looking into Merdy before the children's deaths, and if the family slipped through the cracks.

"Our top priority is protecting the safety and well-being of all children in New York City. We are investigating this tragedy with the NYPD," an ACS spokesperson said.

Eyewitness News also learned that she had been served with an eviction notice, claiming rent had not been paid since sometime last year.

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