‘For me, it’s like a nightmare.’ Mother grieves teenage son’s death at Turlock park

Lourdes Alvarez said her son Estevan Nuño always hung out with his friends at Crane Park after school. They would walk across the street from the Turlock High School campus and wait for his mother to pick him up.

She was worried he hadn’t called her Monday evening, so she went to the park along East Canal Drive, where she found her son unconscious on the ground. Medics tried for two hours to revive the 15-year-old, but he was declared dead at the scene.

“For me, it’s like a nightmare,” Alvarez said Tuesday afternoon. “I never expected this to happen.”

Turlock police said Estevan was drinking alcohol with friends at the park, when he stopped breathing and collapsed Monday night.

Estevan’s mother said she doesn’t know the details, but it’s evident her son and others had been drinking.

“I had a bad feeling, when I hadn’t heard from him,” Alvarez said.

Lourdes Alvarez is pictured Tuesday October 22, 2019 at Jasmine’s Flower Shop and Accessories in Modesto, Calif. Alvarez is the mother of Estevan Nuno, a Turlock High school sophomore that passed away Monday evening after a medical incident at Crane Park. Joan Barnett Lee jlee@modbee.com

It was initially reported as a medical incident shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday, said Sgt. Russell Holeman, a Turlock police spokesman.

Officers were at the park within minutes and immediately began CPR, according to a police news release. Medics from the Turlock Fire Department and American Medical Response arrived and took over life-saving efforts.

Holeman said Tuesday it was not yet clear to investigators whether alcohol was a factor in the teenager’s death.

Alvarez said her 14-year-old daughter was at the park with her brother and several friends. When the mother arrived at the park looking for her children, only her daughter and her daughter’s friend remained at the park. The other friends had left.

The girls brought Alvarez to Estevan. Alvarez said her son was unresponsive, so she called 911 to get help.

Alvarez told The Bee that it was clear that her daughter also had been drinking alcohol. She asked medics to examine her daughter, who was treated at a local hospital.

“It’s so hard to find your family (in that condition),” the mother said. “I don’t have any words.”

Students at Turlock high school embrace as they remember Estevan Nuno, a high school sophomore that passed away Monday evening October 21, 2019 after a medical incident at Crane Park. Turlock High School Yearbook

Estevan has two other sisters, a 17-year-old and a 4-year-old. Alvarez was at her flower shop in Modesto Tuesday, trying to put on a brave face for her children, especially her youngest child.

“I’m trying to be strong,” the mother said standing outside her shop. “If I stay home, I’m going to go crazy.”

She’s a single mother who just opened her business, Jasmine’s Flower Shop and Accessories, in the 1600 block of Crows Landing Road in south Modesto. Alvarez said she’s been told the most basic funeral arrangements will cost her family about $5,000.

Alvarez and her family are trying to raise money to pay for funeral costs. Her flower shop and her brother’s business, Camila’s Flower Shop at 3505 Central Avenue in Ceres, are accepting $5 donations in exchange for a flower bouquet.

“Nobody can be prepared for a situation like this,” said Daniel Alvarez, Estevan’s uncle. “He was so young. We never knew something like this would happen.”

Estevan, a sophomore, was a well liked, popular student, his mother said. The Turlock High School Yearbook Facebook page posted several photos of students grieving his death at school Tuesday.

nuno death 1.jpg
At Turlock High School on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, students mourn the death of their classmate Estevan Nuno, who stopped breathing while drinking with friends in Crane Park the night before. Turlock Unified School District

Turlock Unified School District communications director Marie Russell said counselors, chaplains and staff from Jessica’s House, a grief support nonprofit organization, were at Turlock High Tuesday to provide support to students and staff.

In a written statement, Principal Gabe Ontiveros said, “The Turlock High School community is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our students, sophomore Estevan Nuño. We extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the deceased. ... This has been a very difficult year for our campus and we are thankful for our Bulldog staff and community partners for their assistance.”

Thaily Gutierrez, a 17-year-old Turlock High senior, died when her car was struck by another vehicle Oct. 12 about a block from her home. A sport utility vehicle crashed into the passenger side of an Acura in which Thaily was a passenger.

And on Sept. 7, Turlock High junior Kaden Farro died after he was thrown from an ATV in an orchard south of Turlock Lake. The vehicle then rolled onto him. Kaden apparently was checking on irrigation when the accident occurred.

The Police Department’s news release asks that anyone with information about the Crane Park incident call Detective Jason Watson at 209-668-6557 or its tip line at 209-668-5550, ext. 6780, or email tpdtipline@turlock.ca.us. Tipsters may remain anonymous.

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Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.