Family mourns teen who died in collision

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George Lawrence, Jr., of Little Neck, was 17 in every way, his older sister Jessica said this week.

Desperate to buy a Corvette, the teen often worked for his father’s roofing company and had planned to join the Marines after high school his sister said. He was into everything from soccer to snow-boarding, Jimi Hendrix to rap music.

“I think we’re all still waiting for him to walk through the door,” said Jessica Lawrence, as she fought back tears to describe her brother.

Lawrence had his final adventure last Thursday night, when he was killed in a boat crash in Little Neck Bay that took the life of another boater. The Benjamin Cardozo High School student was inner tubing with five friends during clear, warm weather on a boat piloted by Douglas Manor teen Robert Arnold at the time of the accident that resulted in his drowning.

Jessica Lawrence said her brother enjoyed spending time on Little Neck Bay.

“If you were 17 years old and you had that in front of you, that’s where you’d be,” she said. “He loved it — it’s the reason to live in this neighborhood.”

Arnold’s 1996 Sea Ray collided with a 1990 Bayliner driven by John Kondogianis, 35, of Elmont, L.I. Kondogianis also died in the accident and two others were seriously injured. Arnold was arrested on charges of operating a boat while intoxicated, but sources said this week blood tests taken after the crash revealed a low blood-alcohol content of .01, meaning the teen was not legally drunk.

Jessica Lawrence — the oldest of the Lawrences’ four children — said her family has been devastated by George’s death and had prayed the teen would be found alive. His body was discovered in the waters near Fort Totten Sunday night.

“We were hoping for so long because he’s just so strong,” she said as she sat in her brother’s bedroom during a Tuesday morning interview. “There shouldn’t be three of us, there should be four of us,” she said of her and her siblings.

The room is filled with the mementos of a typical teenager, including one wall plastered with magazine pictures of snowboarders, an electric guitar with large speakers sitting in one corner and leopard print decorating everything from the bedspread to the rugs.

Despite the accident Jessica Lawrence said her family had no anger toward Robert Arnold, but had been frustrated by news accounts of the incident which described him, George Lawrence and their friends as irresponsible.

“It’s not fair to the family,” she said. “It’s not fair for Robert to lose his best friend and for them to blame him when he’s grieving harder than anyone.

“All those boys on the boat would have given their lives for George,” she said. “We’re not mad at them. They’re fantastic kids, all of them.”

George, who was going into his senior year at Cardozo, was both funny and intelligent and attended Brooklyn Tech High School before transferring to Cardozo, his sister said. While attending nearby MS 67, George Lawrence also took gifted children’s classes at Stuyvesant High School, she said.

Jessica Lawrence wistfully remembered a cruise the family took to Mexico in February, when her brother tried to catch lizards and did handstands on Mayan ruins.

“I’m glad I got to spend time with him,” she said.

Lawrence is survived by his parents, George and Deborah, and his siblings, Jessica, Michael and Catherine, as well as grandparents.

A wake for Lawrence was scheduled to be held Thursday at Doyle B. Shaffer Funeral Home, between 2 p.m and 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. A funeral for the Little Neck teen was slated for Friday at 10:45 a.m. at St. Anastasia’s Church in Douglaston.

The family has established a scholarship fund in Lawrence’s memory. Donations can be sent to Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, Attn.: George J. Lawrence, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund, 57-00 223rd St., Bayside, N.Y. 11364.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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