SAN FRANCISCO – The devastated parents of a 32-year-old football fan who fell to his death from a pedestrian overpass outside Candlestick Park said Wednesday their son had a “few” beers while tailgating but wasn’t so drunk he couldn’t walk straight.
Janet and Dennis Hayes, responding to reports from witnesses that her son Kevin Hayes was heavily intoxicated and stumbling before the San Francisco 49ers game, said he had walked up a ramp and was turning onto a staircase where the rail was lower when he slipped and fell.
“Kevin put his hand out thinking the rail was going to be there, but he slipped, tried to grab the rail, and went over the side,” Janet Hayes told The Associated Press, citing the account provided by her son, Jeffrey, who was with his older brother when he fell.
The Hayes family visited the site Tuesday, trying to piece together what happened.
Jeffrey Hayes said he was less than 2 feet from his brother when the accident suddenly occurred. Racing down to the sidewalk, he called his parents as rescuers were loading his brother into the ambulance. His brother already was dead when they arrived at San Francisco General Hospital.
Police Chief Greg Suhr has described the death as a sad, tragic accident and said it was not clear if alcohol played a role. Toxicology reports from the coroner’s office are not expected for several weeks.
The 49ers released a statement Wednesday that says the team is “deeply saddened by the tragic incident that took the life of one of our faithful fans this past Sunday afternoon.”
“We understand that Kevin and his family have remained steadfast supporters for years,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and sincere sympathies are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Kevin was supposed to be the best man at his brother’s wedding this weekend, a celebration the family decided will occur as planned.
“If he were here, he’d be kicking our butts and telling us to stop crying and move on, we’ve got a wedding to celebrate,” Janet Hayes said. “He’d be overwhelmed by the love and support pouring in.”
The family has been 49ers season ticket holders since 1946, when the team was part of the All-America Football Conference. Kevin and Jeffrey Hayes had been going to games since they were babies. Last Sunday, as always, Kevin was wearing his 49ers cap and T-shirt, his parents said.
The family said they have not heard directly from the city, the 49ers, coroner or any agency. Janet Hayes said they have no plans to contact an attorney or pursue litigation.
“I refuse to think about that part right now,” she said. “That is way too negative and my son would be ashamed of that.”
Kevin Hayes lived in Hayward, across San Francisco Bay from Candlestick Park, and worked as a welder and machinist. He grew up in San Mateo, attending Hillsdale and Aragon high schools and Chabot College.
His Facebook page was filled with fond memories.
Asked to describe their son, his parents talked over each other.
“He was a …” began his father.
“Fun loving, easily pleased …” added his mother.
“Loved simplicity, loved family …” said his father.
Their son, they said, found humour in life around him, was content with just a couple bucks in his pocket, and thrilled that his brother had found love.
He spent as much time as he could walking on the beach at Half Moon Bay and planned to move there eventually.
“He loved the serenity of the ocean,” Dennis Hayes said.
Janet Hayes said the family still passionately supports the 49ers but she was unsure when they would return to Candlestick Park.
“It’s going to be hard to go to a game in the near future,” she said. “We’re not ready yet. We have to have some time.”