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Officer Emilia Rennhack | Source: Facebook / danamarie.kelly | Facebook / emilia.kowalczyk.37
Officer Emilia Rennhack | Source: Facebook / danamarie.kelly | Facebook / emilia.kowalczyk.37

Off-Duty New York City Police Officer Killed While Preparing for Wedding

Rita Kumar
Jul 01, 2024
08:15 A.M.

On a serene Friday evening, a speeding minivan shattered the peace at Hawaii Nail & Spa in Deer Park, claiming four lives, including NYPD Officer Emilia Rennhack, who was preparing for a wedding. Now, the salon stands as a somber memorial, adorned with candles and tokens from a grieving community.

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Friday, June 28th, 2024, started like any other in Deer Park, Long Island. At the Hawaii Nail & Spa on Grand Boulevard, the familiar hum of conversation and laughter filled the air as people pampered themselves, stealing a moment of peace in their busy weeks.

Cops at the tragic site on Friday, June 28, 2024 | Source: YouTube / New York Post

Cops at the tragic site on Friday, June 28, 2024 | Source: YouTube / New York Post

Then, at around 4:30 pm, their world shattered in the wink of an eye. A speeding minivan tore through the storefront, transforming the sanctuary of self-care into a scene of unimaginable horror.

Shrieks replaced laughter, the scent of nail polish overpowered by the metallic tang of blood.

Among the victims was Emilia Rennhack, a 30-year-old off-duty NYPD officer. Just hours before, she might have been chasing down a petty thief, directing traffic, or offering comfort to a lost child.

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Officer Emilia Rennhack | Source: Facebook / Danamarie Landolfi

Officer Emilia Rennhack | Source: Facebook / Danamarie Landolfi

She had just stopped at the salon to get her nails done for a fellow cop's wedding later that night. Moments earlier, she might have been happy, looking forward to the celebration and the joy it would bring. But everything shattered in an instant.

Now, her badge lay silent, a heavy reminder of the life extinguished so abruptly.

News of the tragedy spread like wildfire, leaving a gaping hole in the hearts of the close-knit Deer Park community.

Officer Emilia Rennhack in her car | Source: Facebook / Emilia Rennhack

Officer Emilia Rennhack in her car | Source: Facebook / Emilia Rennhack

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In the days that followed, the boarded-up salon became a makeshift memorial. Candles flickered, casting a warm glow on souvenirs and flowers left by grieving friends, family, and complete strangers mourning the lives cut short in the blink of an eye.

Here's how it all began.

Just after 4:30 p.m., Steven Schwally, 64, of Dix Hills careened his speeding 2020 Chevrolet Traverse into the Hawaii Nail & Spa storefront, trapping customers and employees inside.

Mourners pay their respects at the tragic site | Source: YouTube / CBS New York

Mourners pay their respects at the tragic site | Source: YouTube / CBS New York

Witnesses and police reported that Schwally was allegedly drunken and driving in a reckless and hostile manner, hurling verbal abuse at bystanders before the crash.

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The minivan ended up lodged near the rear of the salon, leaving a path of devastation. The entire glass storefront was shattered, and the ceiling caved in.

"There were people trapped, and we extricated them and transported everyone to area hospitals," Deer Park Third Assistant Chief Dominic Albanese said.

The fateful minivan that killed four innocent lives, including Officer Rennhack | Source: YouTube / New York Post

The fateful minivan that killed four innocent lives, including Officer Rennhack | Source: YouTube / New York Post

"They were trapped inside. Everybody was inside the salon." Albanese added, "It's horrible. It's horrible. It can be tough for the community and tougher for the volunteer fire department, but you know we're going to get through it."

In a large-scale emergency response, over 150 firefighters and emergency medical services personnel swarmed the scene, what the Deer Park Fire Department designated as a "mass casualty event."

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Cops and rescue teams flock to the tragic scene | Source: YouTube / New York Post

Cops and rescue teams flock to the tragic scene | Source: YouTube / New York Post

The incident resulted in a devastating loss of life. Four people, believed to be patrons inside the salon, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Nine others, including a young girl only twelve years old, sustained serious injuries and were rushed to nearby hospitals. One critically injured victim required airlifting for urgent medical attention.

Among the victims was Police Officer Emilia Rennhack, who had stopped at the salon to get her nails done for the wedding of a fellow officer later that night.

Officer Rennhack with her husband Detective Carl Rennhack | Source: Facebook / Det. Simonsen Foundation

Officer Rennhack with her husband Detective Carl Rennhack | Source: Facebook / Det. Simonsen Foundation

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Rennhack, a six-year NYPD veteran, had married Detective Carl Rennhack in September. The pair met on the job, and her loss has left her husband devastated. A police source said:

"He's in bad shape. His wife was his life."

Social media brims with stolen moments of Rennhack's wedding day. Clad in a pristine white gown, a radiant smile paints her face as her groom draws her close, the very essence of the love that brought them together.

Officer Rennhack on her wedding day | Source: Facebook / Danamarie Landolfi

Officer Rennhack on her wedding day | Source: Facebook / Danamarie Landolfi

Her mother-in-law, Holy Rennhack, was in tears after Emilia's death. "My daughter-in-law was a wonderful woman," she told The Post.

"She was beautiful. She was very kind. She was very compassionate. She was very special. I was very, very close to her," she said, adding that her son was "very distraught right now."

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Officer Rennhack joined the force in 2018, according to police. In a heartfelt tribute on Facebook, the Police Benevolent Association acknowledged the "tragic loss" of Officer Rennhack.

Officer Rennhack on duty | Source: Facebook / Paulina Stepanov

Officer Rennhack on duty | Source: Facebook / Paulina Stepanov

They encouraged the community to offer prayers and support to her family, friends, and colleagues during this difficult time.

The Det. Simonsen Foundation, established after NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen's tragic shooting, shared a heartfelt post online about Rennhack's passing, emphasizing that she and her fiancé "were part of our family."

Officer Rennhack dancing on her wedding day | Source: Facebook / Paulina Stepanov

Officer Rennhack dancing on her wedding day | Source: Facebook / Paulina Stepanov

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"The Simonsen Foundation is beyond devastated to learn about the tragic passing of Emilia Rennhack," the post reads.

"You could always see them at our events, and they always honored Brian. We will miss Emilia and we will NEVER forget her. To Carl, we love you beyond measure and we are here for you forever."

Officer Rennhack chilling with her husband Detective Carl Rennhack | Source: Facebook / Det. Simonsen Foundation

Officer Rennhack chilling with her husband Detective Carl Rennhack | Source: Facebook / Det. Simonsen Foundation

Upon arrival, first responders reported the driver exhibited signs of being only partially alert.

Steven Schwally, who was arrested for drunken driving, was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital, where he is still receiving treatment as of Saturday. Authorities have announced that they expect to upgrade the charges against him pending further investigation.

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Flowers at the crash site | Source: YouTube / New York Post

Flowers at the crash site | Source: YouTube / New York Post

Schwally has a history of DUI offenses, with his record including a conviction from April 2014.

His brother, Edward Schwally, conveyed deep sorrow and admitted to his brother's troubled history.

"It's like my worst nightmare come true. I feel terrible about innocent people getting hurt," Edward told The Post, reflecting on the devastating impact of the incident.

Fire and rescue team at the crash site | Source: YouTube / ABC News

Fire and rescue team at the crash site | Source: YouTube / ABC News

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Edward Schwally also mentioned that his brother had a habit of "bad mouthing everyone" and could be "vicious at times."

He lamented, "There's nothing I can really do for him. It's out of everybody's hands. It's in the hands of the courts. He is not going to see the light of day. He's finished. There is no way to get out of that."

Investigation in full swing at the crash site | Source: YouTube / NBC News

Investigation in full swing at the crash site | Source: YouTube / NBC News

David Caburis, 41, from Whitestone, Queens, used to spend time with Schwally in their younger days but was unaware of his old friend's involvement in the deadly DWI crash.

"He was a normal person," Caburis remarked, expressing surprise over the incident. "I never knew him to drink and drive," he added, reflecting on the unexpected turn of events concerning Schwally's actions.

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People at the crash site | Source: YouTube / NBC News

People at the crash site | Source: YouTube / NBC News

A Stop & Shop deli manager described the moments before the car crashed into the nail salon. The manager, who wished to be identified as Bobby, said he heard a woman yell at the driver, identified as Steven Schwally, after Schwally nearly hit her with his car in the store's parking lot. He recounted:

"He was flying."

Ten seconds later, according to Bobby, Schwally's car slammed into the nearby nail salon.

People gather to offer their tribute and prayers at the fateful crash site | Source: YouTube / CBS New York

People gather to offer their tribute and prayers at the fateful crash site | Source: YouTube / CBS New York

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A community vigil for the victims will be held on Monday, July 1st at 7 pm, as announced by a poster outside the Hawaii Nail & Spa.

Funeral arrangements for Officer Rennhack are scheduled for July 6th at noon at the New Hyde Park Funeral Home, as per the NYC PBA.

Officer Emilia Rennhack with her husband Carl Rennhack in Piatkowizna | Source: Facebook / Emilia Rennhack

Officer Emilia Rennhack with her husband Carl Rennhack in Piatkowizna | Source: Facebook / Emilia Rennhack

This devastating incident at the Hawaii Nail & Spa has left an indelible mark on the community, underscoring the fragility of life and the enduring impact of reckless behavior.

The memory of Officer Emilia Rennhack, her dedication to service, and her love for her family and community will not be forgotten. As investigations continue and the community mourns, there is a collective hope for healing and stronger measures to ensure such tragedies are prevented in the future.

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Officer Emilia Rennhack | Source: Facebook / Bibles for Law Enforcement Officers

Officer Emilia Rennhack | Source: Facebook / Bibles for Law Enforcement Officers

If you liked this story, here's another one about a four-year-old boy who was left behind at the Scottish Deer Center following a nursery trip.

4-Year-Old Boy Left behind by Nursery Staff at Wildlife Park during Trip

A four-year-old boy named Carson Morhulec was left behind at the Scottish Deer Centre following a nursery trip organized by Dunmore Nursery in Lochgelly, Scotland. This incident occurred when Carson, the last in line to use the toilet, found himself abandoned by his group.

Carson and eight other children from Dunmore Nursery went to the Scottish Deer Centre in Cupar on an end-of-year outing on Friday, June 21. Unfortunately, Carson ended up being left behind when the group departed.

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According to the boy's mother, Clare Hodge, all the children were asked to go to the bathroom before boarding the bus to return home.

Carson Morhulec | Source: Facebook

Carson Morhulec | Source: Facebook

Carson was the last child to use the bathroom. None of his classmates or the teachers were present when he exited, which he initially believed was a prank. However, he eventually realized they had left him behind.

Carson was left alone for approximately 40 minutes before a kind man discovered him standing by the toilets, crying.

The man, after realizing the young boy was alone and distressed, quickly took Carson to the deer center office. The staff at the Scottish Deer Centre immediately contacted Dunmore Nursery to inform them about the missing child.

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Carson Morhulac and his mother, Clare Hodge | Source: Facebook

Carson Morhulac and his mother, Clare Hodge | Source: Facebook

Carson's mother was both astonished and distressed by the incident. "The what if’s that have run round my head all weekend is unreal," she stated in a Facebook post.

In the same post, she goes on to express her disbelief that the nursery staff could lose track of her son, especially given the small size of the group.

"Now the worst part of this whole experience for me has been the fact that there were only 9 kids on this trip and 3 teachers. A ratio of 3 kids to 1 adult and they still managed to lose one and be unaware," she shared.

Here's the rest of the story.

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