WHATSAPP KILLED MY FATHER: A Message from a Child of One of Yesterday’s Drowning Victims

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I was informed of my father’s death from a WhatsApp group.

I wake up in the morning and ask Siri, “What’s the weather today?” She replies, “Today will be partly cloudy with a high of 60 degrees.”

My day starts off just like every other day and nothing seems unusual.

At work, I usually keep my phone on silent so that I can get things done. At approximately 11:30 a.m., I see the other people in the office gathering around and talking quietly. Nothing unusual. At 11:45 a.m., I give a slight glance at my phone and I see that I have 68 unread messages from 9 different WhatsApp groups. That was my first sign that something usual is happening today.

I put my thumb at the key lock and go directly to WhatsApp. At that very second, my heart skipped a beat. My fingers froze. My eyes were rolling. I saw stars. All messages read: “BDE. At least three people dead in an apparent boat accident in Florida.” Every group that I am a member of had at least 10-15 messages with pictures and voice notes of how many people died, how and where, with full details.

As a family member, I did not know of a thing that had happened. All of a sudden, from reading a WhatsApp message, I was left without a father! A point-blank yasom!

I try calling my mother and of course there was no answer. I race out of the office and call my brother. There is an answer – the answer I never dreamed of hearing!

With a foggy mind and my blood ice cold, I rushed home and funeral arrangements were underway.

But I do want to take a few minutes to discuss the recklessness of WhatsApp groups. I feel that now might be the time for people to reconsider broadcasting and distributing news on WhatsApp.

The first messages started circling on WhatsApp at approximately 11:00 a.m. The messages read: “There was a fatal boat accident in Miami and three people are dead: Rosenberg, Parnes and Englander.”

Without hesitation, someone decided to write a message killing 3 people right then and there. And thousands of shares were followed within seconds.

At 11:00 o’clock, not one of them were confirmed dead! So instead of sharing messages to daven or say Tehilim for the critically injured, someone decided that he will get more shares on social media or will be looked at as a hero on WhatsApp because he was first with the news. So wrong on so many levels!

At the very first second I read the WhatsApp messages, I was hoping that those three were killed just like the two bochurim were killed in Kerestir last week. But thankfully those reports turned out to be false.

Sadly, the Miami story is true.

Right now, I have no voice. No mind. I am typing this message with tears.

This was without a doubt the hardest and worst day of my life. And the WhatsApp messages made it a lot worse and harder!

All I’m trying to say here is, when a tragedy strikes, don’t try to be a hero with sharing the news as fast as you can. Be a hero with knowing as many accurate details as you can. And never assume or make something up, because there’s always a family or families at stake.

I will never forget the first WhatsApp messages I read when I opened my phone. Make sure to never be the person who writes that message.

From this point on in life, I will never be caught by surprise again. Nothing can surprise me anymore.


{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. BDE; Agree 100%…Social Media is out of control. So very sorry & sad for you, especially to learn of your father’s petirah in this unacceptable fashion….so that one’s ego can be satisfied knowing he /she was the first poster….
    al eileh ani bochia,,,,,,,,

  2. Baruch Dayan HaEmes.

    This is a heartbreaking, yet so believable, terrible incident.

    Technology has boomed, but we have lost a lot in its growth.

  3. I am very sorry for your loss. Your point about people needing to be careful about disseminating tragic news is a valid one and one that should be kept in mind for the future. I ask for you to be mochel those who caused you pain yesterday; they clearly had no idea that they would be doing so and I’m certain they regret it.
    Hamakom yinachem eschem b’soch availay Tzion v’Yerushalayim.

  4. So very true. Devorim hayotzim min halev.
    This is precisely why the Rabbanim in Eretz Yisroel have said time and again that this machala of WhatsApp has to stop. If only the Tzibbur would listen.

  5. I hope you stop using Whatsapp, along with the rest of the world! Its a terrible thing for more reasons than one!

  6. Mitch- Not sure what part you didn’t get. For one thing she very eloquently made some very valid points. She went as far as to say “All I’m saying”, to imply that she is not voicing her opinions against this app altogether but rather how it’s used and abused as this sad story demonstrates.
    My heart goes out to all that are affected by this terrible tragedy.

  7. I am not responding to anyone in particular. I am just asking a question to every single person:
    Do you subscribe to 9 different Whatsapp groups so that you get get all the latest gossip and then complain because the gossip is about your family rather than someone else’s?

    That’s like blaming the telephone for loshon hora.

    Instead, look at yourself and what caused you to be so interested in all these Whatsapp groups in the first place.

    And, look at your chevreh, why they are so attracted to Whatsapp gossiping.

  8. Terrible tragedy – Hamokom Yenachem……….
    Please let’s all use only what’s needed according to the guidelines of our Rabbonim and leaders.

  9. May the bereaved person be consoled among all of our mourners, and thank you for writing this. I never had Whatsapp, never will, and I hope none of my loved ones ever do. I showed them this article.

  10. To anonymous – first of all good job hiding your insensitive comments behind anonymity. Second I don’t think it’s all that uncommon to have multiple what’s app groups. You can have ones for family, Shul, fellow school parents, coworkers, yeshiva friends, alumni groups and the list goes on. I highly doubt that this person is subscribed to nine different gossip what’s app groups. The point being made is that everyone was talking about it and they found out in this tragic manner

  11. The reality is we live in a world of fast news. Even assuming the post is authentic, how exactly did a whatsapp post add to the pain? You mean losing a father is one level of pain, but if you lose a father to a sudden tragedy and find out about through whatsapp, the pain is worse? That notion is ridiculous, because nothing can ameliorate the pain of losing a parent, and I know plenty of people that have found out about their loss by various ‘non-traditional’ means.

    It belittles the pain of losing a parent to suggest that finding out by text makes it worse.

  12. If people don’t like whatsapp don’t use it. But dont forbid it for others. Does everyone enjoy every food. So you wanna ban foods somebody doesn’t enjoy?

  13. רבותי קול דודי דופק!!! הקב”ה דופק חזק בִּשְׁעַת פְּטִירָתוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם של צדיק הנ”ל!! בגלל שאנחנו חייבים לקב”ה… אנחנו חייבים לחזק צניעות הנשים – ולהפסיק המחלוקת, “למה השם עשה לנו ככה? “חייבים לפשפש” ולחזק האחדות – בין אדם לחבירו, בין אדמו”ר-לאדמו”ר, בין איש-לאשתו, בין הרב-לתלמידים, בין פלג-לפלג, בין משפחה-למשפחה וכו’ ולא ולא ולא להתחבר לרשעים פורקי עול המצות, לא למחללי שם שמים. גם להרבות בצדקה וחסד ללא בדיקה וחקירה, רק מתוך אהבת חסד אמיתית, ומתוך צניעות, וללא כל בקשת תמורה.

    “למה השם עשה לנו ככה? על כל אחד ואחד אנשים נשים וטף לחשוב מה עליהם לתקן במעשים טובים ולעשות תשובה” מיד שהקב”ה לא ידפוק שוב ר”ל. בִּשְׁעַת פְּטִירָתוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם אֵין מְלַוִין לוֹ לְאָדָם לֹא כֶסֶף וְלֹא זָהָב וְלֹא אֲבָנִים טוֹבוֹת וּמַרְגָּלִיּוֹת, אֶלָּא תּוֹרָה וּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים בִּלְבָד, “טוֹב לִי תּוֹרַת פִּיךָ מֵאַלְפֵי זָהָב וָכָסֶף” וְאוֹמֵר: “לִי הַכֶּסֶף וְלִי הַזָּהָב נְאֻם השם.

  14. I found out about my son’s death via a friend who saw a posting of his death on facebook. It was very difficult way to hear it. My daughter was trying to arrange to have someone with me when the news was told to me. In this day of social media we all have to be careful sharing such news on any site before all family is notified.

  15. First of all, who writes these headlines? If a sibling would have told the author, would the story be “my brother killed my father”? Second, if it wasn’t whatsapp, it would have been 60 texts saying BDE or hamakom yinachem… third, just a general question, why is whatsapp worse than text?

  16. I feel likes we’re participating in some sort of social experiment. We’re on a social networking site commenting on the horror the author experienced at reading about the loss of their parent on another social media application. They mentioned how they saw their coworkers gathering around and talking quietly, intimating that the coworkers were aware of the horror. Yet not one real person in the author’s circle, family, friends or co-workers had the decency to speak to them personally and privately. Only when the author reached out to their brother did they get confirmation. Am I the only one who sees the horror in that here? Have we really lost that personal connection?

  17. The headline is relevant to the third person, who was B”H not killed (Y Englander). Whatsapp “killed” him ie. declared him dead when he’s b”h alive! So there’s two issues here…. 1. When the news is true and real, it’s still worth holding back details until you’re sure that the family has been notified. 2. When the news is not verified, don’t spread it, especially not with names!!

  18. I found out about my son’s death via a friend who saw a posting of his death on facebook. It was very difficult way to hear it. My daughter was trying to arrange to have someone with me when the news was told to me. In this day of social media we all have to be careful sharing such news on any site before all family is notified.


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