Dad of Teen in Tragic Fall: 'I Want to Make Sure Her Friends Are Ok'

Imogen Roche,15, died three days before she was to start her sophomore year at Beacon High School. Photo: Facebook

Sep. 05, 2018

Even as he grieves over the unfathomable loss of his daughter, Imogen, Theseus Roche is hoping to bring comfort to the many friends she leaves behind.

The talented 15-year-old, who died after falling from the top floor of 110 Reade St. during a house party Sunday night, would have been starting her sophomore year Wednesday at Beacon High School. Instead, her father, who runs after-school programs in 24 schools for Tribeca-based Manhattan Youth, is thinking of the many others she has touched. He has offered to talk to teachers and students at his daughter’s school, wherever he is needed.

“I suspect that the way in which she has affected the people who knew her was profound,” Roche said in an interview with the Trib on Wednesday, speaking publicly for the first time since the tragedy. “I want to make sure they’re ok.”

Just how profound was that impact could be seen Thursday afternoon when hundreds of teens filled the churchyard of St. Pauls Chapel for an emotional candlelight vigil, organized by her friends. (A funeral service for Imogen will be held next Saturday.)

“What I am is Imogen’s father, and if she’s part of a lot of other people, then I’m their father, too,” Roche said.

“He’s worried about the kids,” said Susan Kay, who directs Manhattan Youth’s after-school stage productions and has had a long, close relationship with both father and daughter. “That’s who he is.”

“Imogen was a special human being who touched a lot of lives,” Roche said, noting that his daughter had a wide network of friends from all her schools as well as dance, filmmaking and other programs she attended with kids from around the city. “She was the shoulder that everybody cried on. She was the one who took care of people. She was kind and compassionate and this is going to affect a lot of people.”

Roche, 45, raised Imogen alone, and the two were extremely close. “We kind of had full conversations as soon as she could make words,” he recalled. “She was very independent and we would read together and go everywhere together.”

“We learned from each other, she and I,” he added. “We grew up together.”

“Anyone you talk to will tell you that Imogen and Theseus had an incredibly special bond and were tighter than most parents,” said Constance Tarbox, who has worked closely with Roche at Manhattan Youth for many years and knew Imogen since she was three. “They were partners in this world together.”

Tarbox described Imogen as “a very thoughtful, loving, smart, beautiful girl. Yes, she was a physical beauty, but just a beautiful human being.”

“One of the few things that keeps me from going dark is that I left nothing unsaid to her,” Roche remarked. “She knew that I loved her. I told her every day of her life. And she told me, too. Neither of us left anything on the table. So I don’t have to regret anything. But she leaves a big hole.”

News stories have called Imogen “an aspiring actress,” a label that Roche, who has worked as an actor himself, dismisses. Though involved as an actor, writer and director in Manhattan Youth’s Filmmaking Workshop (the film she wrote, directed and starred in, “When Words Fail,” won Best Drama at the SONYC Film Festival), Roche said his daughter did not aspire to a career in entertainment.

“She knew that she wanted to have impact, that she wanted to be in service of people,” he said. “She was talking about psychology, she was concerned about children experiencing trauma, and considering a career as an attorney or counselor advocate for children in the legal system.

Roche said he remains uncertain about all the details around his daughter’s fall. “I just know how it ended. And I can’t change it.”

According to police, shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday night Imogen had attempted to retrieve the phone of another party-goer who had left it in a locked bedroom. She fell, police said, after climbing out a window onto a sixth-floor ledge while trying to get into the room through another window. She died about an hour later at Bellevue Hospital. No charges are being filed in the death, a police spokesman said.

“I did attempt to rattle around the details because it seems so stupid and nonsensical that if I could just disprove it then maybe it wouldn’t be so,” Roche said. “I had to pivot from trying to make sense of what happened which—there is no sense.”

“What should we have done? What should she have done? I don’t think that’s the thread to follow because that will make us go crazy,” he added. “This was an accident that ended in tragedy.”