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NJ Native Who Overcame Great Challenges Dead In Iowa State University Rowing Accident

Yaakov Ben David
Yaakov Ben David Photo Credit: Instagram photo

A 20-year-old New Jersey native who overcame great challenges at a young age was among two Iowa State University students who drowned this week in a rowing accident.

Yaakov Ben-David, formerly of Lakewood, and freshman Derek Nanni, 19, died when the crew skull they were in capsized during practice last Sunday.

Ben-David's body was flown to New Jersey Tuesday, and services were held the following morning at the Lakewood Bais Hakvaros.

ISU Chabad director Rabbi Leibel Jacobson said Ben-David was heavily involved in the organization, and described him as an outgoing and "all-around great guy." 

As did all who knew him.

Ben-David left his community in Lakewood during what the Ames Tribune described as "difficult teenage years.

He moved around the country in pursuit of a high school diploma, eventually enrolling himself in Washington DC's Ballou STAY Opportunity Academy, a school for economically disadvantaged students who are at least two years behind, the outlet says.

There, Ben-David received just the support he needed to thrive, according to school officials.

Academics came naturally to Ben-David, who -- despite a lack of formal education -- scored impressively high on the SATs, the Ames Tribune says citing Ballou officials.

Ben-David started at ISU in 2019 as an aerospace engineering major, and reportedly made the dean's list that fall as an accounting major.

He wanted nothing more than to create a beautiful life for himself and, along the way, help others do the same.

“We didn’t just lose 2 rowers on Sunday; we lost 2 brothers,” the Crew Club posted on Facebook Tuesday afternoon. “Yaakov and Derek were family.”

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