DITMAS PARK — A young activist and her friend were killed by an enormous downed tree in Ditmas Park when they were out walking their dog during Hurricane Sandy, the FDNY and residents said.
Jessie Streich-Kest, 24, and Jacob Vogelman, 24, were killed while walking Streich-Kest's dog near East 18th Street and Ditmas Avenue, according to relatives and reports. Their bodies were found under the tree Tuesday morning.
"[The victims] were covered by branches," said witness Gina Alica, 35, who walked past the grisly scene shortly before emergency responders arrived. "You could see their faces."
Residents said the dog, identified in reports as a pit bull mix named Max, was alive and a neighbor had taken it in.
Streich-Kest was a teacher at Bushwick High School for Social Justice and the daughter of Fran Streich and Jon Kest, executive director for New York Communities for Change. She was active in the movement to ban the carriage-horse industry and worked for New York Communities for Change.
"Just 24 years old, Jessie Streich-Kest left a lasting impression on all who met her, and especially on her students at Bushwick HS for Social Justice, to whom she was deeply committed. Jesse loved life and was deeply devoted to social justice," Streich-Kest's uncle, Steve Kest, said in a statement.
Fire officials confirmed that the couple were killed by the tree, but declined to state whether it was knocked down by Hurricane Sandy, which felled trees across the Tri-State area with wind gusts as high as 90 mph.
Officials couldn't say when the victims were struck. But Neighbors said the two people were likely killed Monday night during the brunt of the hurricane when three large trees on the block crashed to the ground.
"I heard a tree go down around 10 or 11 p.m. yesterday," said a neighbor, who declined to give his name. "I didn't see it hit anybody."
"I sounded like a boom. It's a bit of a vibration and a thud," another neighbor said of the fallen trees.
She too didn't notice anyone under the branches.
"It looked like a mound of leaves. It was pitch black out there."
The resident said the trees had been swaying heavily before they fell.
"I just knew it was going to come down," she said.
The downed trees were among many century-old trees that dot the block and neighborhood.