Photos courtesy of Sylvia Bolton: Hamilton Middle School student Leo Schneider died from complications of head trauma on Saturday, Jan. 12. His injuries stemmed from a rollover collision near Cle Elum on Aug. 27, 2018.
Photos courtesy of Sylvia Bolton: Hamilton Middle School student Leo Schneider died from complications of head trauma on Saturday, Jan. 12. His injuries stemmed from a rollover collision near Cle Elum on Aug. 27, 2018.

Four months after a rollover collision outside Cle Elum hospitalized Leo Schneider, his family said their goodbyes in the early morning of Jan. 12. For Leo’s mother Sylvia Bolton, who stayed by his side at Seattle Children’s Hospital all that time, it was one of many.

“It is four months of losing him every day,” she said. “It is so devastating and so big, I am in some way trying to keep going.”

The 13-year-old Hamilton Middle School student was one of four boys who had been traveling in David J. Cohen’s Mazda Tribute for a river rafting trip when it left the road and rolled on Highway 970 on Aug. 27, 2018.

The Washington State Patrol believes Cohen was under the influence of prescription medication when he attempted to pass a vehicle, left the road and rolled his SUV. He was the only one wearing a seatbelt.

Cohen’s 12-year-old son Max was pronounced dead at the scene. Schneider’s other friend and classmate, Nico Luiggi, died two months later as a result of the severe traumatic brain injury he suffered in the crash.

Cohen was initially charged with one count of vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Craig Juris tells Queen Anne News charges will be amended to three counts of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault at Cohen’s next court hearing. He is currently out on bail.

“It is something that my mind cannot comprehend,” Bolton said, “and I cannot believe in our country this is not precedent for someone to be in jail.”

Schneider was a smart kid, who excelled in his school’s advanced program.

“Math was one of his strongest subjects and interests, and he was two or three years ahead of schedule,” Bolton said.

He admired Stephen Hawking and his work in physics, but what Schneider wanted was to go to the University of California-Berkeley to learn how to code. He wanted to create groundbreaking video games, his mother said. When Schneider and Luiggi weren’t playing outdoors, they were inside playing Fortnite or Minecraft.

Luiggi’s father Ray teaches martial arts at the Northwest Jiujitsu Academy, where Nico would go to train. Schneider was training in taekwondo at Martial Sports, and Nico had plans to join him in the fall, Bolton said.

Bolton said she and Nico Luiggi’s mother, Carmen Hagios, also ended up becoming friends, which sometimes meant teaming up to keep an eye on their kids. She remembers the two driving down to near a bridge on Lake Union where the boys were jumping in. At one point they lost sight of them.

“A couple of minutes later they showed up behind us and said, ‘Really, why are you spying on us?’” Bolton said. “We had so many beautiful moments like this, and all of a sudden one day they were going to this white river trip and all hell broke loose.”

Nico Luiggi spent the last two months of his life in the pediatric intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center. Leo Schneider was moved to Seattle Children’s Hospital in October.

Bolton said she and Leo’s father, Matthew Schneider, stayed with him the entire time.

“He never became fully awake,” Bolton said, “and for a short period of time we were able to communicate, but he would never wake up.”

She said they were initially optimistic, but it eventually became clear her son would not recover.

“I spent the last month sleeping in Leo’s bed,” she said, “and every single night after that sleeping in his bed in his room.”

Bolton, who designs yachts for a living from her studio next to Salmon Bay, said she’s now pushing through with her work, while thinking of ways to honor her son’s memory. She’d worked a lot when he was alive too.

“The moment a boat passes, he looks and goes, ‘Is this one of ours?’” she said. “I spend so much time working in my office, Leo would come in and see what I do.”

A celebration of life will be held 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park.

“This is a place where Leo and Nico and the rest of their friends loved to hang out, because they loved to go to the parks,” Bolton said, usually with their skateboards. She hopes to have a number of balloons there, for her son’s classmates to write messages on and then release into the sky for him.

Cohen is set to go to trial in May, and Bolton said she will be there.

“We’ll do everything to put this man to justice for murder.”