Tyler Schripsema graduated from Stanislaus State University last week, hoping to use his bachelor's degree in business administration to work on philanthropic efforts that could develop long-term solutions to help homeless people.
The 23-year-old Modesto man gathered with his family for a celebratory lunch shortly after graduation. Then, he and some friends packed their belongings and headed south. He never came home.
Schripsema died after dislocating his neck while swimming in Lake San Antonio in Bradley, a small town in southern Monterey County. Lisa Schripsema said the initial autopsy indicated her son died from an injury to his spinal column.
"I don't know if he fell and hit his head," she said. "It was such a freak accident."
The young college graduate and his friends attended the Lightning in a Bottle music festival, a large gathering that offers camp sites along the lake. The festival features music on several stages and art installations. The event held over Memorial Day weekend had about 37,000 attendees this year, LA Weekly reported.
The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported last week that the family of a Ventura woman who died after attending the Lightning in a Bottle music festival last year is suing the event's promoter over her death.
Lisa Schripsema said her son attended the event last year and loved it. This year, Tyler planned on volunteering to help take down the various booths after the festival was done.
On Sunday evening, Tyler had just finished cooking for others on the camping grounds and apparently had gone into the lake to cool off, when the accident occurred.
Tyler Schripsema was alone in the water when he was injured and immediately went into cardiac arrest, his mother said. There was a group of people along the shore who quickly performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation to try to revive him. He was taken by ambulance to a Templeton hospital in San Luis Obispo County, where he later died.
Lisa Schripsema said there was no indication Tyler was intoxicated or was trying to dive into the water. She said her son would've known that it would be too dangerous for him to jump into that shallow area of the lake only a few feet deep
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department conducted Schripsema's autopsy. Sheriff's spokesman Tony Cipolla said Friday afternoon that the cause of death is still pending. He said investigators are awaiting toxicology results, which typically take six to eight weeks.
Tyler Schripsema grew up in Modesto, attending University Charter School before graduating in 2013 from Downey High School. On his LinkedIn career profile, he referred to himself as an "Eagle Scout with steadfast values" who was guided by values from his mother and the skills he learned while earning his business degree. He planned on earning a master's degree while starting his career.
"In his activities, he learned that giving back to others was most important," his mother said. "His friends always called him the 'Idea Man.'"
Lisa Schripsema said she's been overwhelmed by the outpouring of emotional support her family has received on social media sites. Friends, classmates and Stanislaus State administrators have offered condolences and shared great memories about her son. She was unaware how much of an impact he had made on others in his short life.
"He brought joy into every room, because he always had a big smile," she said. "He lifted everyone's spirit, because he always had a positive attitude."
Tyler Schripsema was a member of Theta Chi Fraternity and its philanthropy chairman. Fellow fraternity members created a GoFundMe page to collect donations to help pay for the funeral expenses. The group has raised more than $12,000 in pledged donations as of Friday afternoon.
Eric Perez, his friend and fellow fraternity member, said they all admired and respected Tyler for his leadership in the fraternity, the student newspaper The Signal reported.
"Tyler has impacted my life by setting the bar on how every resolute man of Theta Chi should be,” Perez said.
"He pushed and created ideas to raise funds and help, not only our organization but the local community as well," according to the GoFundMe page. "While he may have passed, he still lives on in the hearts of everyone he interacted with as he was an inspiration to every life he touched."