BURLINGAME (KPIX) — The family of a young physics researcher at a Bay Area COVID-19 testing lab was in mourning Sunday after he was killed by a falling tree near the facility in Burlingame.
Kahlil Gay had just graduated from Cal State East Bay in December and started working at the company.READ MORE: UPDATE: Atmospheric River Crashes Onshore; Flood Warning Issued For Napa, Sonoma Counties
“At a very early age, he knew that he wanted to be in the physics or engineering field. He knew actually where he was going in life,” said the victim’s aunt, who declined to provide her first name.
Family members said Gay was excited about his new job — working for Color, a health tech company that provides COVID-19 testing for several San Francisco city-run sites.
“Kahlil had just called his parents to check in (before the tragedy,)” said the victim’s aunt.
But that excitement quickly turned into a tragedy on his third day at the Color campus located on Mitten Road.
“He was walking with a co-worker of his,” said Kahlil’s older brother, Darryl Gay, when the accident happened.
Authorities told the family that around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, Kahlil was walking with a co-worker on campus when he was struck by the tree. His injuries proved to be fatal. There’s no word on whether or not the co-worker was injured.
“(His mother and father are) not eating and just not being able to think clearly,” his aunt said. “You have a 23-year-old son who did everything in life right, followed the plan, took the coaching, went in the direction of greatness, and he’s not here,”
His aunt and brothers said Kahlil was a kind, peaceful man, a devoted Muslim, and a hard worker.READ MORE: Atmospheric River Whipped Winds Roar Through Bay Area; Toppling Dozens Of Drought-Weakened Trees
“If he really loved something, he’s going to put his complete 1,000% into whatever he’s handling,” said Darryl Gay.
An arborist from Elite Tree Service told KPIX 5 from looking at the pictures of the downed tree, it appeared to be a Brazilian peppertree. He said it likely had root rot issues.
A Color spokesperson released a statement reading: “We are devastated and heartbroken by the tragic loss of a member of the Color team. Our team is in shock and grieving this incredible loss. Our deepest sympathies are with his family and friends, including those he worked with here at Color.”
Alexandria Real Estate owns and manages the property. The company said they were working with authorities to find out why it happened.
Dan Tsang, the senior vice president for operations & development at Alexandria Real Estate released a statement: “We were shocked and saddened to learn of the accident that occurred during Friday’s windstorm, which tragically resulted in this accidental death. We are working with the authorities to determine exactly how this accident occurred. However it happened, it is heartbreaking, and our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones of this individual.”
The victim’s family members said no one from either company has reached out to them. They said they were disappointed and had a lot of questions about how it happened.
A spokesperson for Color said the company CEO had called and talked to Kahlil’s parents to offer condolences and support.
“I felt like the world truly is going to be a little bit dimmer because Kahlil is not here to give his skills, and his love, and his knowledge,” said Kahlil’s aunt.
Emails and questions to The City of Burlingame and Alexandria Real Estate about which agency was responsible for the tree and its maintenance record were not answered on Sunday.MORE NEWS: Atmospheric River: PG&E Crews Respond to Widespread Bay Area Outages
The Gay family said they plan to transport the body back home to Corona in Riverside County for burial.