A Bellevue teen died after an apparent fall from a wind turbine, family and friends say, but police have yet to confirm what happened.
Bellevue police officials said only that they are investigating the death of Ernesto “Ernie” Garcia, 17, who died early Monday at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo after being taken there from The Bellevue Hospital.
Garcia was drinking at a friend’s house near Bellevue High School when he and two others decided to climb a wind turbine on the school’s property, according to his sister Jessica Garcia, 22.
She said his friends carried him to their car and drove him to the hospital, though those details could not be confirmed.
Police said they were still gathering information Monday afternoon and refused to release any public records related to the death, including an initial incident report.
Bellevue police Capt. Matt Johnson was out of town Monday, and Chief Dennis Brandal didn’t return calls to his cell phone. Bellevue Schools superintendent Kim Schubert also would not comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
The Lucas County Coroner’s office in Toledo is scheduled to perform an autopsy today, a spokeswoman said.
Although the circumstances of his death are still unclear, friends and family say there’s no question Garcia loved his life and lived it in the spotlight.
The youngest of a large family, he constantly cracked jokes and created freestyle rap lyrics inspired by just about anything.
He worked on a ranch and had trained for months in hopes of scoring a spot on the school’s wrestling team, his sister said.
As he prepared to enter his senior year of high school, he shared dreams of becoming a rapper or joining the U.S. Marines, following in the footsteps of his older brother.
“He always celebrated life,” Jessica Garcia said. “He never looked at anything negative. He always was who he was, and he said he’d never change. Sometimes we didn’t understand really who he was, but we just accepted him and loved him.”
Classmate and friend Felicia Riedy, 17, described Garcia as fun-loving and easygoing, the kind of guy who could always be counted upon to cheer up his friends.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in school who didn’t like Ernie,” she said.
Another classmate, 17-year-old Aubree Curliss, credits him for keeping her entertained during government class.
“He was a person who could make you smile,” she said. “He was goofy, and everyone loved him.”