Witnesses said they saw Stephen Gugel, 19, of Patterson fall off a ledge and hit his body and chin on his handlebars causing internal injuries. He was rushed to Doctor's Medical Center in Modesto and died around 3 a.m. Friday morning.
“He was in critical condition when he was taken to the hospital and suffered internal injuries,” said Amber Gugel, 21, of Hughson — Stephen’s sister. “They couldn’t stop the internal bleeding.”
Courtney MacPherson, 18, of Patterson and a good friend of Stephen Gugel, saw the incident first hand.
“I watched him go over the ledge and land with his body and chin on the handlebars,” she said.
City staff members have launched an investigation into what happened and are examining video surveillance from cameras in the park and interviewing witnesses, City Manager Rod Butler said in a written statement Monday, Aug. 26. The park was closed Friday while staff members were investigating the incident, but re-opened Monday, Aug. 26.
“The security guard from Rank Security was on duty at the time and will be interviewed as well,” he wrote. “At this point there is no evidence that this incident was anything other than a tragic accident, and the City organization wishes to extend its condolences to the friends and family of the victim during this very difficult time.”
Friends and family say Gugel, who had moved from Turlock to Patterson a year ago, was gregarious and fun loving — the life of the party and always wanted to put smiles on people’s faces.
“He always picked your spirit up,” Zach Hurst, 16, of Turlock said.
Seamus Reid, 17, of Turlock said Gugel was never sad.
“We were best friends and he put everyone else first,” he said. “He was a great guy to be around.”
MacPherson said he was like a big brother to her.
“He was someone I could always talk to,” she said. “He always had a smile no matter what was going on.”
• Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31 or firstname.lastname@example.org.