Ben Callahan, just 10 years old when he died, was an outstanding athlete, a kid who loved to play football, basketball, and lacrosse. His coaches said he “pushed himself to the max in each sport and would often wear his heart on his sleeve.”
They called him a talented player who played like “a true warrior.” And they were devastated this weekend to report to their community that Ben, their warrior, had died Friday afternoon in a tragic accident on the Branford River.
Ben had just graduated from the John B. Sliney Elementary School and was expected to enter the Walsh Intermediate School in September. He was multi-talented. He loved to play the guitar and to cook. He liked to learn. He was a free spirit type of kid.
He loved basketball, too.This basketball team picture was taken at the Kinney Tournament at the Community House in 2015. Ben is in the first row far left, #2 (notice his socks) and his brother Cooper is at the far right, #0. The coaches are Joe Chandler (upper left) and Dylan Palluzzi (upper right).
Eric Fiengo, president of Branford Youth Football, wrote a letter to the Branford Hornet family and community, informing them on Face Book that on Friday “we have lost a wonderful child in our community.”
He said of Ben’s personality that he should be “labeled as a humanitarian. He would spend time helping anyone that needed help, whether it be a neighbor, a family member, a friend or his fellow campers. He was there to help when you needed him. These boys were raised with nothing but love by Dave and Paula and their loving family. Anytime you see them they always had smiles on their faces. They have respect and love and care for people in general,” Fiengo wrote.
Ben also loved his brothers. They were inseparable and were the best of friends, Fiengo wrote. They played together all the time. So it was no surprise that they all went down to the Branford River together on Friday after a strong rainfall had stopped.
But at one point, Ben accidentally lost his footing and tripped and fell. Cooper, his older brother and Scout, his younger brother, tried desperately to grab him. But the tide was high and the swampy marsh was unpredictable. The currents pulled Ben out into the Sound and swept him into a culvert. The brothers called 911 and a massive search was soon underway.
Divers found his body several hours later, trapped in a 48-inch pipe.They brought him to shore.
But for one so young, he lived a strong and committed life: to his family, to his friends, to his studies, to sports, to music, and to others in need. And he enjoyed helping his dad, Dave, at multi-tasking, Fiengo wrote.
Saturday morning Police Capt. Geoff Morgan, posted a photo of tributes to Ben, flowers, a football, a helmet. Morgan and Fire Chief Tom Mahoney directed Friday’s search for the boy. Click here to read the story.
As the day unfolded, friends and family added to the memorial set up at the river’s edge.
One friend wrote to his friend, “Benny.” He propped a basketball up high, under which he placed a cross.
Others wrote notes on helmets and baseballs.
“The Branford Community lost a great child on Friday but his spirit will reign through each and every one of us! Ben, you will always be remembered as a friend to all and #2 to all of us,” Fiengo wrote. “You have touched so many people in your short time here on earth.” (Number 2 was the number he wore proudly on his jersey.)
At the end of his tribute, Fiego extended an invitation. He said the Branford football community and Callahan family would like “to invite all to come to the Branford Town Green Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m. for a Candlelight Vigil to celebrate the life of Ben Callahan, #2.”