Summer tragedy! Rosenberg's die in accident in Dominican Republic
Nationally renowned Vero Beach endodontist David Rosenberg and his wife Jean braced for a harsh reality of parenthood as they left for the Dominican Republic last week: they were afraid this vacation might be their last as a family.
Son Eddie Rosenberg, 19, is a rising sophomore at University of Florida. His brother Stephen starts his senior year at Vero Beach High School in the fall. All their lives, the family had traveled together, always on adventures physical and intellectual. Now it seemed likely the boys soon would develop other interests and want to go off by themselves.
In a tragic, freak accident last Friday, orchestrated by the forces of nature, the devoted father and mother were swept off the edge of a waterfall in one of the area’s leading tourist attractions by a sudden swelling of the waters upstream, the result of downpours that had drenched the island – but had triggered no warnings or alarms at the Damajagua Falls.
The Rosenbergs, spending the next-tolast day of a weeklong stay in the Dominican Republic, never knew what had happened. One son tried in vain to rescue his mother, a family member said, but both parents were lost to the sudden torrent. Their bodies were recovered downstream.
A funeral service for the Rosenbergs at the Strunk Funeral Home in Vero was scheduled for Thursday.
David Rosenberg’s youngest brother, Gary, said the family’s overriding commitment right now is to make the boys’ lives as similar as possible to the ones they led before the accident.
“The good news is they were so close to their parents that they picked up a lot of their strength and character and optimism,” says Gary Rosenberg. “The bad news is, they were so close it makes the separation that much harder.”
Jean Rosenberg’s sister, Betty Ann Travers, with whom the boys are exceptionally close, is expected to arrive in Vero shortly to spend the summer with them at their home in Castaway Cove. Plans are for Stephen Rosenberg to spend his last year at Vero Beach High School starting in the fall.
“There’s no doubt they’re lost,” says Gary Rosenberg. “It’s going to take all of us to get them through this year.”
The Rosenbergs, residents of Castaway Cove for more than 20 years, relied on the family’s singular closeness for their fun. Jean Rosenberg, a one-time accountant who managed the business aspects of her husband’s Ocean Drive practice, was very active in the boys’ schools, serving as room mother at Beachland Elementary, then in the parent organizations at Gifford Middle, the Freshman Learning Center and Vero Beach High School.
The Rosenbergs found their entertainment in the boys’ sports activities: Eddie plays ice hockey; Stephen plays lacrosse. Rosenberg, who went to New York University for his dental training, had a national reputation as an endodontist – he was once called late one evening by Ross Perot to treat Perot’s sister, who lived in the area and needed immediate care.
Rosenberg was positive it was an old friend playing a prank and told the caller he was doing a terrible impersonation of Perot. Perot did not give up; he gave Rosenberg his number in Dallas and told him to call him back. He did. “Typical David – he was embarrassed about it,” says Gary Rosenberg. “And he did take care of her.”
Rosenberg trained with two world renowned endodontists, Stephen Buchanan of Santa Barbara and Gary Carr from San Diego, who advanced the use of an endodontic microscope to examine the intricacies of the root of a tooth.
Rosenberg went on to specialize in techniques that corrected procedures gone awry. Pioneering the use of microscopes in dentistry, Rosenberg lectured frequently at professional meetings, and always to a packed room, his brother said.
“He was very well known not just locally, but nationally and internationally,” says Robert “Bruce” McDonald, a dentist who practices with Rob Callery. “He lectured here and in other countries. He was known for re-treating failed root canals. He’s the best of the best of the best. In anyone’s opinion, from people on the lecture circuit to universities, he is one of the top two or three people in our country.”
Rosenberg’s intellect showed itself in childhood. Raised in Glen Cove, Long Island, Rosenberg, who would have turned 53 on June 23, was the oldest of three sons of a dentist. His father, Paul Rosenberg, now retired, had a practice in Bayside in Queens. His mother Barbara is a retired physical education teacher of 30 years. Two brothers are in related fields: Robert, the middle son, is a pediatrician in Scarsdale, NY. Gary is president of a dental supply firm.
“He was at the top of his class in high school,” said Gary Rosenberg. “During finals time, or regents time, his friends would call him and he could be on the phone for hours talking about calculus, history, all kinds of subjects, helping them study. That carried on through to adulthood. He loved the educational side of life.”
David met Jean, raised in Levittown, Long Island, when he was in graduate school. The two fell in love quickly, Gary says. They were married in New York, and moved to Fort Pierce, where Jean worked as an accountant and David first had his practice. Eventually, he opened an office in Vero, and the family moved to Castaway Cove.
Away from lecturing and the office, Rosenberg focused on the family, as did his wife, friends say. Family vacations were always an adventure.
“David’s idea of fun was to do something that required a certain amount of physical excellence and intellectual excellence. He wasn’t a drinker. He wasn’t a TV guy. He didn’t go to bars and party. He had to do something that used his own strengths.”
“Dave’s idea of a vacation was not to go to a five star hotel and get room service,” says Gary. “He liked the elements. He loved camping and the outdoors. They were always going on trips to unusual places to see the world and have fun as a family.”
The day of the accident began in a way entirely in keeping with the Rosenberg’s style, said Gary Rosenberg. From their base in Puerto Plata, the family headed off to a swimming hole a half hour away in the Dominican jungle at Damajagua Falls, a series of waterfalls described by one website as “the water park that God made,” where tourists in swimsuits, helmets and life preservers climb up crude ladders or along the rocks edging the rushing water, and dive or slide to deep pools below.
According to Gary Rosenberg, as the family made its way up to a higher level from which to slide down, an unexpected swelling of the river’s waters, the result of a downpour far away upriver, knocked them off their feet. The parents were overtaken by the current and drowned.
The Rosenbergs were wearing helmets and life preservers, Gary Rosenberg was told. According to numerous strings on travel-related sites, those requirements are a result of the 2005 death of an 11- year-old boy from Ontario, who was caught in a whirlpool and could not be pulled to safety.
Many experienced adventurers wrote that the falls were so dangerous that only under drought conditions was it safe to venture in. Others said no such warnings were given when they made the trek to the same falls, and were alarmed at the scenario’s risks.
Rosenberg’s office walls were filled with photos of the family on outdoor adventures: kayaking, hiking, whitewater rafting. An avid tennis player, David Rosenberg also loved to water ski and sailboard.
It was to practice those sports and generally enjoy the outdoors that the Rosenbergs very deliberately chose to raise their family in Florida.
At the same time, Rosenberg searched to find out where endodontists were needed. His options came down to Portland, Oregon and Florida, specifically, the Treasure Coast. “Florida won hands down,” Gary Rosenberg said.
Recently, Rosenberg bought himself a small motorcycle and was learning how to ride.
“I would describe him as a mild thrillseeker,” his brother Gary says. “He proposed to Jean on a roller coaster. But first, he tied the engagement ring to a keychain so it wouldn’t fall off when he pulled it out.”
In the end, the miraculous closeness of their family supercedes the indomitable circumstance that wrenched them apart.
“What amazes me,” says Gary Rosenberg, “and what sums the whole thing up is that you don’t find too many families where the mother and the father, and the senior in high school and the sophomore in college, all want to go away together. It wasn’t like they went away and all went their separate ways. They wanted to enjoy it as a family.”