Berenson and her boyfriend Joseph Cheetham, 23, were driving back to the Berenson's Whitestone home when the family car got stuck in a flood of water at 15th Avenue and 117th Street in College Point. "It could have been anybody," her mother, Lee Berenson, said while sitting shiva in the family home Friday. "If your car stalls in the middle of the intersection and it's filling with water and you try to get out, it should be fine."Alana Berenson was the first to get out of the car at about 3 p.m., stepping into what witnesses called "a river of water." Cheetham, a Pittsburgh native, tried to save her but wound up also being electrocuted by the downed power line that was dangling in the water. Emergency responders reported that the couple was dead when they arrived on the scene. "They were just two wonderful kids," said Bruce Berenson, Alana's father. The couple met at SUNY Maritime, where they were both students.Cheetham, who was from Ross Township, Pa. outside of Pittsburgh, was living with the Berenson family in the Clearview Apartments for the summer while he was taking his Coast Guard licensing exams."He was a very easy-going guy," Lee Berenson said. "He was willing to do anything you'd suggest."Their daughter, Alana, had very strong, diverse interests, they said. "She was an insatiable reader," her mother said. "She loved music, from Gregorian chants to punk."Alana Berenson was a student in the agriculture program at John Bowne High School in Flushing before she decided to study for a life at sea."It was a gray world," her mother said. "She was going from a green world to a gray one."Her interest in boating surprised her parents, who also believed it was a reflection of her adventurous nature."What attracted her to the school was her love of travel," Lee Berenson said.Since she started school at SUNY Maritime, boating had brought her to Estonia, Barcelona, New Zealand, Denmark and Poland.The couple had been dating for about a year, her mother said, after they spent last summer together at sea. "She was very involved in the school, she was on the rowing crew, she played clarinet and interestingly enough, a cheerleader, which she had disdain for in high school," Bruce Berenson said.At school she earned the nickname "Smurf " because she was only 4-foot-10 tall."She was just a joyous, joyous spirit. She was happy in everything she did," her mother, Lee Berenson, said. "She filled the room with enthusiasm."Her father said Alana Berenson dreamed of someday working aboard an oil tanker in Alaska.While Cheetham will be buried in his SUNY Maritime uniform, the Berenson family was planning on burying their daughter in something comfortable that would reflect her nature."She loved Care Bears, she had a million Care Bears," her mother said, after holding one of her other daughter's Care Bear dolls."We're putting her in a comfy Care Bear T-shirt," her father said."Esher, Smurfs, Care Bears," her mother said, "Any strange combination would be Alana."Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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