CCMS Student Still in Critical Condition After Accident; Doctors More Hopeful Today


Clifton Det. Lt. Robert Bracken reported that on Saturday, June 24, 2023, at approximately 8:30 pm, 13-year-old Clifton resident and CCMS student Aqel Khalifeh was riding his bicycle on Fifth Avenue. Bracken indicated that when Aqel approached the intersection of W. 2nd Street, he struck a moving vehicle, causing him to be thrown from his bicycle. The driver stopped immediately to render aid and police and fire department personnel responded a short time later. No arrests were made.

Aqel was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital where he remains in critical condition. Abdul Hamdan, the father of Aqel’s best friend, said that the 13-year-old is in a medically-induced coma at St. Joseph Hospital in Paterson. “He has suffered internal bleeding to the brain and stomach and has already undergone multiple surgeries,” Hamdan said. This morning, doctors reduced Aqel’s sedation to see if he could respond to external stimuli and observed the child move both of his hands. To his mother’s great relief, he was also able to respond to the sound of her voice, squeezing her hand to indicate that he could hear her. Subsequently, doctors resumed increased sedation levels in preparation for another surgery.

According to Hamdan, who says that he saw a video of the tragic accident, the car struck Aqel, possibly not seeing him due to a car parked right at the corner and obstructing the driver’s view. Aqel was unfortunately not wearing a helmet. Helmets are required for cyclists, roller-bladers, roller skaters, and skateboarders if under the age of 17 in New Jersey and this child’s tragic accident serves as a frightening reminder of why this law is in place. According to the Department of Law & Public Safety, “Head injury is the most serious injury type and the most common cause of death among bicyclists. The most severe injuries are those to the brain that cause permanent damage.”

Hamdan, with the family’s permission, started a GoFundMe in order to assist them with medical and other related expenses. Aqel’s father, he said, is the sole earner in the family of six children and will likely be out of work for a while as he tends to his son and family. Hamdan, like the whole community, is hoping that Aqel pulls through and expects that he will have a long road of various therapies ahead of him.

The GoFundMe, which has been active for about 36 hours, has so far raised more than $73,000. The community is invited to please share the link and to donate if you’re able to do so.

The incident is currently under investigation by the Clifton Police Traffic Division. Bracken said that all are hoping for the best possible outcome and the CPD joins the community in sending “our thoughts and prayers to Aqel and his family.”

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