21-Year-Old Runner with ‘Kind, Loving Spirit’ Dies in ‘Freak Accident’ in Calif. Park

The body of a 21-year-old college student studying to be a doctor was recovered in a California park on Saturday, following what his family believes was a freak accident.

Max Lenail, who was from Palo Alto, was last seen going for a run on Friday at Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego, the San Diego Police Department said.

He'd moved to the city just two weeks ago in order to spend as much time as possible outdoors as he finished his pre-med studies at Brown University remotely, mom Laurie Yoler told CBS/CW affiliate KFMB.

"Max was my rock, I knew if anything ever went wrong in my life Max would be there to say the right thing, do the right thing, and take care of everyone," she told the outlet.

A massive search effort was launched by local authorities and volunteers after Lenail was reported missing, and on Saturday, the SDPD announced that hikers had found a body in the water in Mission Trails.

"With the assistance of @SDFD & @SDLifeguards the body was recovered," police said on Twitter. "We have reason to believe it is Max. Official confirmation will be by the [medical examiner's] office."

Dad Ben Lenail told Fox affiliate KSWB that his son was an experienced athlete and outdoorsman, but likely slipped and fell at some point during his hike.

"He knew the wilderness, but he probably slipped and then hit his head and died of a combination of head trauma and hypothermia," Ben Lenail said. "The best way to describe it is a freak accident."

Lenail's father said he was set to graduate from college in May, and looked forward to dedicating the rest of his life to helping others.

"He had an incredibly generous, caring nature and he was going to spend decades healing and helping other human beings," he told KSWB. "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."

On Sunday, Lenail's family and friends gathered to pick up trash and clean up the beach in his honor, while dozens of friends left remembrances on a public Facebook tribute page.

"Max was an incredible, generous, kind, loving spirit," friend Maryanna Saenko wrote. "I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have known and admired him. He was an amazing cook, a brilliant climber, a kind friend and he was also a boy with a dog. A boy who loved that dog very much, and was in turn loved by that dog. Hazel misses you Max, we all do."

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