West Africa – Orthodox Brooklyn Man Dies in Sierra Leone After Insurance Company Allegedly Dawdles

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    West Africa – A 59 year old Brooklyn man who was in West Africa on business died this past Shabbos following a minor car accident that took place on Thursday deep in the heart of the Kenema District’s mining country located in Sierra Leone.

    Avraham Levy of Kensington, who was in the tile and granite business, had been in Africa on business for several weeks and was hospitalized for observation after the accident. He died due to complications from diabetes, after the remote makeshift hospital to which he was taken was unable to provide him with insulin.

    Levy’s family found out about the accident when Levy’s rabbi attempted to contact him by phone on Friday. Levy’s phone was answered by someone who told the rabbi that Levy was in the hospital and not doing well.

    Mrs. Levy confirmed that she contacted Oxford insurance company to arrange for a Medi-Vac transport to a higher level medical facility, explaining that her husband was a diabetic, had proper coverage and that she had already located a carrier willing to transport her husband. According to Mrs. Levy, Oxford insisted that the transfer had to wait until after the weekend.

    Chesed Shel Emes was notified of Levy’s death on Motzei Shabbos and was able to prevent an autopsy and embalmment, both normally done before a body can be flown out of the country.

    After learning of Levy’s death on Motzei Shabbos, the family contacted Chesed Shel Emes who activated connections within the Department of State and Dept of Foreign Affairs in order to prevent an autopsy from being performed. The State Department was contacted yet again when complications arose with local officials during the six hour car ride to the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown from the remote area where the hospital was located.

    Levy’s body is currently en route to Brussels from Freetown International Airport where a connecting flight to Israel for burial will be arranged.

    Zvi Gluck, director of Government Relations for Chesed Shel Emes, credits several people for helping get the body out of Sierra Leone in less than forty eight hours, including Miss Anne Marie of the American Embassy in Sierra Leone, who worked tirelessly with Chesed Shel Emes to expedite matters, Sam Westreich of Belgium, who was in the area and ensured that all the proper documentation was filled out, served as a shomer for the niftar and accompanied the body from the Kenema district to the Freetown airport, ZAKA and Menashe Kirsh of Crown Heights, who having had a similar experience in Sierra Leone, served as both a point of contact and a translator.

    “It was literally nissim v’niflaos that we were able to prevent the autopsy and get the body out of there so quickly,” said Gluck in an interview with VIN News.

    Passports for the Levy family were arranged by Chesed Shel Emes in order for them to be able to fly to Eretz Yisroel for the burial.

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    24 COMMENTS

    1. Did the minor car accident trigger his diabetic problems? People with food allergies always carry anaphylaxis shots cause they know without it, it could kill them fast. People with serious diabetes should carry insulin supply with them, especially when they travel to countries with poor medical care. I hope the family will successfully sue Oxford insurance for their slow response to the situation.

      • “Did the minor car accident trigger his diabetic problems? People with food allergies always carry anaphylaxis shots … “

        Diabetes is NOT an allergy, an anaphylaxis pen would have been totally useless.

        The key to the story lies here: “He died due to complications from diabetes, after the remote makeshift hospital to which he was taken was unable to provide him with insulin.”

    2. What a sad besura!
      I worked with Avraham Levy a number of times, starting when he was just beginning on his own.
      On one ride with him to a granite yard he told me his family story. He was a Yemenite from a very, very frum home who emigrated as a child to Eretz Yisroel along with his large family. Upon arriving, his parents were derided for their strict adherence to Yiddishkeit, and with great anguish they watched their children stray.
      Avraham did the same.
      But at some point (I don’t recall when that was) Avraham decided to return to his roots. He fought to have his children in the best Yeshivos and Bais Yakovs here in New York.
      He spoke very proudly of his heritage and for a long time insisted on wearing only the colorful kippa worn by the Yemenites.
      His business b”h flourished, but Avraham did not change.
      How tragic!!
      BD”E.

    3. the “nissim v’niflaos” would have been more useful if they would have been directed at getting him to a hospital where he could have been saved. preventing his autopsy is small consolation to his family and friends.

      • BD”H.
        Of course it would’ve been much nicer to be able to save his life, but when this did not happen, it is indeed great consolation to the family that his body hasn’t been butchered up to determine the “extremely important facts” exactly what time his kidneys gave in, & when did it prevent the heart function, & whether he died from too low sugar or too high sugar..
        To a yid that believes in life after death and kevod hames, it is a very big achievemment, thanks to chesed shel emes and all others who made this happen be”h.

    4. Somthing doesn’t make sense. Anyone who is a known diabetic always carries insulin with them or has confirmed that they will have access in whatever area they travel. However, even if he failed to take this common sense precaution, why would the family haggle with the insurance company on coverage for the cost of medical evacuation if they knew he was at risk. Pay up front and deal with the insurance company later for reimbursement. This story doesn’t make sense and there is more information that we don’t know.

      • Unless you have been to SL you won’t understand that going to hospital over there is bad news from the start. (And for the record there is no money to be made there. The only money is coming home and telling everyone to invest with you).

      • A) If you’re looking to write a movie, head on over to Hollywood and see what you can do for them. Don’t try to rescript people’s lives in an unfair manner to cast doubt upon them, their families, or those around them. This story is beyond tragic. Of course it doesn’t make sense – we are human and these were G-d’s plans, plans which are beyond our scope of understanding. Until you are appointed detective in the case, you should think and write in favorable terms rather than what could incite the opposite. If you do actually put yourself in the same position that the family was in (which would be impossible given that we/you don’t even know any of the real details surrounding the order of events) you might find yourself also thinking twice before withdrawing some ten to twenty grand to cover the cost of a reputable air lift/transfer. She may well not have spoken to her husband for days – that could have been the norm during such far travels – and did not know there was even any hospitalization until Friday, which is when she immediately contacted Oxford to arrange for a transfer.

      • B) Both she and Oxford seem to have not thought it was a dire situation for some (likely legitimate) reason and, unfortunately in this case, it turns out the one extra day to work things out did make a difference. How utterly sad. While leading an honest, hardworking and devout life, while trying to make a livelihood to support his family, this man’s life was tragically cut short.

        The only people I would question are the foreign hospitals and co-workers. Certainly not the family. I have traveled to such areas and can only say that AT ALL COSTS I would avoid hospitalization there, and make sure to be in constant contact with family/acquaintances abroad.

        My thoughts are with the family. What an innocent and sad tragedy. Hopefully it will serve as a warning to others who travel to remote locations in such areas for work.

    5. Reading this, I’d say that right now is a good time for every American to take a moment to kiss the ground and thank G-d for allowing us to be lucky enough to win the lottery, which is another way of saying, to be an American citizen.

    6. reply to #5
      Insurance companies like Oxford provide overseas contacts to service evacs and help coordinate care when an emergency strikes overseas.I have no doubt that it was not dickering over $ that prevented the evac.Hopefully there is an acceptable explanation for their delay.

    7. BDE

      I knew him well , a real hustler and overall very nice guy.

      he had the best granite shop in brooklyn and his wife and kids were very involved in the business , and they really respected him.

      wishing them all the best..

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