Pre-Med Student Set to Graduate in May Dies in Freak Accident at San Diego’s Mission Trails Regional Park

Max Lenail, 21, was an aspiring doctor and avid outdoorsman died tragically during a run at Mission Trails Park in San Diego.

Max Lenail was last seen by his roommate on Friday around 10:30 a.m., headed for Mission Trails Park, where he was planning to go for a run, officials said, ABC10 News reported.

A missing 21-year-old pre-med student set to graduate in May died in a freak accident in the San Diego’s Mission Trails Regional Park, his loved ones said.

Max Lenail was last seen by his roommate on Friday around 10:30 a.m., headed for Mission Trails Park, where he was planning to go for a run, officials told ABC10 News.  After he was reported missing, search and rescue teams from San Diego Sheriff’s Department, park rangers and the community members worked tirelessly to find Max. 

On Jan. 30, police received a 911 call at 1:47 p.m. from a search group who said they found a body in the water near a waterfall at Mission Trails. The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and city lifeguards were called to the scene and removed a body from the water, ABC reported.

Later that day, the San Diego Police Department announced on their Twitter page that they believed the body recovered was that of Lenail. Official confirmation, they said, will be made the medical examiner’s office, KRON4 reported.

Lenail's father, Ben Lenail, described his son Maximilian, known as “Max,” as a “very seasoned athlete and outdoorsman, and said that rock climbing, bouldering, running was a big part of his life,” KRON4 News reported

Max, who was a pre-med student at Brown University and was less than six months away from graduating, was someone who was “caring, and passionate about helping others," his father said.

Laurie Yoler, Max’s mother, told CBSNews 8 that Max was her “rock” and if anything ever went wrong in her life, Max could always be counted to be there. His care for others from a young age made it no surprise that he eventually decided to go into medicine, she said.  

”Max was a total caregiver. From when he was a baby, he showed the most extraordinary empathy, and people would often say, 'How can a kid of that age have so much emotional intelligence and always know exactly what people need?'" she said.

Only two weeks ago he moved to San Diego so he could enjoy the beauty of the outdoors while completing his last semester at Brown University.

Yoler said she believes her son died when he slipped going across the river and fell to his death. She went to visit the site where the accident happened and told CBS News 8 that the rocks are covered with algae, making them extremely slippery and that when she was there she saw several hikers slip. 

"If there's any way we can save other lives by securing that area and putting a bridge or some kind of structure to save other hikers' lives, I would love to be part of that making that happen," she said. 

Nathan Zeidwerg’s, a lifelong friend of Max’s, wrote, in part, on the Remember Max Lenial tribute Facebook page, “I grew up with Maxi and words can’t quite capture the effect he had on me. We spent every day together for 11 years and I feel so fortunate to have spent so much of my life by his side."

Yoler told CBS that so many people who met her son told her how they inspired them to be better people. She told the news station that if she had just one more moment with him, she said: “she would give him a huge hug and tell him how much she loves him.”

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria responded to the heart-wrenching news on Twitter. “Our hearts break for the family of Max Lenail. Thank you @SanDiegoPD, @SDFD, and volunteers for all your efforts to find him.” 

Ben Lenail said despite his grief and anger, he feels thankful and called it “life-affirming and heartwarming” for all the support from family and friends who traveled to help find his son.

“My heart is full of love for my family, and for him, and the fact that he was such a luminous presence for 21 years.”

A candlelight vigil is being arranged for Thursday at 5:30 p.m.