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Recent College Grad From Westchester Dies During Internship In Panama

Erica Andrea Illescas of Croton-on-Hudson
Erica Andrea Illescas of Croton-on-Hudson Photo Credit: Contributed

Erica Andrea Illescas of Croton-on-Hudson died in a tragic accident while at the beach in Plenque, Panama on Aug. 6. She was 23.

A recent graduate of the University of Connecticut, she was in Panama on an internship program.

Erica had gone to Palenque to further explore Panama with a couple of her colleagues. While sitting at the shore, a wave came by and pulled her and some of her friends into the ocean. Though they were able to retrieve her body from the ocean and transport her to the nearest clinic, she was pronounced dead at 3 pm.

She was born in Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow on Nov. 2, 1993 to Rosa Jarama and Marcelo Illescas. She is survived by both her parents and three brothers, Marcelo Jr., 32, John, 29, and Christian, 18, as well as many aunts, uncles and cousins.

As a lifelong Croton resident, Erica graduated from Croton-Harmon High School, Class of 2011.

At UConn, she received her Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering in May 2017. Upon graduating, Erica had gone to Panama to work in a medical research facility, where she excelled in being the only one in her group to reproduce cells with a 100 percent survival rate. Erica had also been admitted to the Master’s degree program at the University of Connecticut, where she planned to attend in January 2018 following the completion of her internship in Panama.

Her passing comes at a great loss to her family, friends, and community. Those closest to her will find comfort in remembering her witty sense of humor, patience and compassion. She never hesitated to lend a helping hand, and often put the needs of others before her own.

For many of those who knew her, she was seen as the voice of reason, the one who’d give you an honest opinion and a hug when you needed it.

Erica was strong willed and determined to make the most out of life through her education and hard work. She leaves behind a great void in all the lives she impacted and will be dearly missed.

Her family will receive vistors Monday, Aug. 21 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Nardone Funeral Home at 414 Washington St., Peekskill, NY. Mass of Christian Burial will be offered on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 10 a.m. at Holy Name of Mary Church in Croton. Interment will follow at Bethel Cemetery, Croton.

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