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Parents fight to build bridge where son died in San Diego

Max Lenail.png
Posted at 4:25 PM, Feb 08, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Max Lenail's parents are fighting to build a bridge where their son tragically died on Mission Trails. Ben Lenail and Laurie Yoler say their son died an avoidable death and there should be a structure to ensure the safety of hikers and cyclists.

The Brown University pre-med student died during a rare weather event when the river was swollen. Lenail was an experienced hiker, climber, and overall athlete but his parents say he likely slipped and drowned in the river in the middle of a hail and rainstorm.

Lenail and Yoler say they are channeling their energy to prioritize a bridge on the trail. A bridge has been on the city's master plan for years, but there was never a timetable.

RELATED: City says no timetable for Mission Trails bridge after hiker's death

The parents say they are working in conjunction with the city to create a special public fundraising effort to expedite the construction. San Diego's Supervising Public Information Officer Timothy Graham told 10News the city must first approve and earmark the fundraising effort before it is rolled out.

Lenail says the city has been transparent and calls the news encouraging.

"It's a gesture to Max's tribe of outdoor lovers. To say we've got your back. Our son died pointlessly because the river was swollen and we want to avoid another accident from happening," said Ben Lenail.

RELATED: Safety concerns raised after hiker found dead in Mission Trails Park

Max's mother says she has seen first-hand how dangerous the crossing can be. "It has been talked about since 2019, now it is time to make it a priority. I would love to ensure there's no chance of this happening again. I don't ever want another parent to go through what we are going through now," said Laurie Yoler.

Max's parents say they are touched by the tributes pouring in for their son. They said he called them every day to tell them "I love you." "He just loved being outdoors in the nature with his dog, Hazel. People say dogs don't grieve but she is distraught," said Lenail.

Councilmember Raul Campillo is helping the Lenail's formulate a plan of action. "As the District 7 Councilmember and the Chair of the Mission Trails Regional Task Force, I'm committed to supporting Max's family and friends in their quest to erect a bridge over the river in Max's memory. My staff and I are currently gathering as much information as possible so we can share what it will take to be successful in this endeavor."