Boy who drowned in San Miguel remembered as 'all-around great kid'

Mother of 11-year-old encourages all parents to pay close attention to their kids around water

kleslie@thetribunenews.comJune 30, 2014 

Mike Gallegos, 11, was attending a party for his karate school shortly after 5:30 p.m. Friday at Star Farms — an event venue in San Miguel that features a small man-made lake — when the swim deck he and several other kids were playing on tipped over, dumping everyone on it into the water.

It was something that had happened several times that day, Mike’s mother, Mary Gallegos recalled Monday. But Mike’s father, Henry Gallegos, noticed that, when all the other children had returned to shore, Mike still hadn’t resurfaced.

Mary Gallegos said everyone began searching for Mike in the water as her husband contacted the authorities.

Roughly five minutes after his father made the 911 call, Mike was found, and someone performed CPR on him until emergency medics arrived. He was then taken by ambulance to Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton.

The trauma Mike sustained from the incident was too great for him to overcome, however, and he was pronounced dead at 8:41 p.m.

‘A gentle soul’

Mike, who had just graduated from the fifth grade at Del Mar Elementary School in Morro Bay, was known as an “all-around great kid” with interests that varied from sports to music, his father said.

“He enjoyed a lot of things like a kid — pizza, ice cream, sports,” Henry Gallegos said, noting Mike had a particular affinity for math. “He was really sharp at it. He could figure out what the tax would be on stuff at the grocery store with no problem.”

Del Mar Elementary School Principal Janet Gould said Mike was also involved in the school’s chess and sports teams.

“He was a delightful child,” Gould said. “A gentle soul — but all boy, with a spark of mischief.”

Mike also shared many of his interests with his older brother Rick Gallegos, a graduate of Cuesta College who is currently studying at Cal Poly.

“When I was a little guy, I always wanted someone to play with,” Rick Gallegos said. “Then when I was 11, on the same day that ‘Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ came out, I got my wish. … He was the best Christmas present I ever got.”

The pair was close, Rick Gallegos said, sharing everything from a love of comic books to music. They also often played video games together, with one teaching the other how to get past difficult levels, he said.

The Friday of the accident, Mike even asked his brother to complete a level he had started that day.

“I told him I would when I got home,” Rick Gallegos said. “I just finished it yesterday.”

‘A tragic accident’

Though investigation into the nature of Mike’s death is ongoing, county Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said there is no indication of anything suspicious or criminal in the case, and Star Farms is not at fault for the incident.

“It sounds like it was just a tragic accident,” Cipolla said.

A representative of Star Farms could not be reached for comment.

No matter the nature of the accident, Mike’s mother is encouraging all parents to pay close attention when it comes to their children and water.

“We just really want to let everyone know that they need to be watching and vigilant all the time,” Mary Gallegos said. “Parents need to pay attention.”

Mike’s death has hit the Gallegos family hard, but what has truly surprised them has been the outpouring of support from the community, they said.

“We just feel so blessed to be a part of a community that has given us so much support, and helped us to raise this wonderful young man,” Mary Gallegos said. “It’s just been tremendous.”

A celebration of Mike’s life is planned for 2 p.m. July 12 at Del Mar Elementary School, to be followed by a reception.

Student attendees are encouraged to wear their Del Mar T-shirts or sports jerseys if they were on a team with Mike. Everyone is also encouraged to wear red, Mike’s favorite color.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Morro Bay Community Foundation for youth sports, care of Joe Woods, or Del Mar Elementary School for its sports and P.E. programs, care of Principal Janet Gould.

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