The 17-year-old daughter of the Toronto Blue Jays’ first base coach died in a “freak accident” during a day of tubing with family and friends on the James River in Virginia.
Julia Budzinski, daughter of trainer Mark Budzinski, was out with her sister behind a boat on the James River on Saturday when the two girls fell out of the tube into the water, the Virginia Department of Wildlife said.
After the couple fell into the water, a family friend operating the boat turned around to retrieve the girls. However, a wave erupted from under the boat, bringing the boat over Julia, resulting in a propeller hitting her underwater, the department said.
Virginia Department of Wildlife spokeswoman Paige Pearson told ABC News the boatman immediately jumped into the water to save Julia, who was then brought ashore and taken to the hospital.
Despite the quick response, Julia was pronounced dead on Saturday, July 2nd. Pearson told ABC News that both girls were wearing life jackets and there was no alcohol or foul play involved.
“It was just a freak accident,” Pearson said.
Julia’s mother Monica and her sister Lily were on the boat with Julia all day. Her mother said at a vigil at her school on Sunday night that it was “a very happy, fun last day on earth for her, sadly obviously to the end,” according to WTVR.
“She was happy, laughing and having a good time and that’s how I will remember her. So everyone must remember them. She just loved life. She loved being outside, sports, everything,” Budzinski continued on WTVR.
Mark Budzinski, Julia’s father, was in Toronto at the time of the accident and served as first baseball coach for the Blue Jays during one game. The team was playing the second game of a doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays when Budzinski suddenly left the dugout, according to CTV Toronto.
Manager Charlie Montoyo repeatedly left the dugout for the clubhouse during the game, and bench coach John Schneider stepped in as manager during the series of brief absences, CTV Toronto reported. The Blue Jays also closed their clubhouse to reporters and announced there would be no media availability after the game as the coaching staff supported Budzinski on a “personal matter,” according to CTV Toronto.
The Blue Jays on Sunday made a statement in recognition of Budzinski and his family.
“The Budzinskis have been part of our Blue Jays family for the past four seasons. This devastating loss is shared across our organization and we mourn with Bud and his family,” Ross Atkins, executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager of the Blue Jays, said in the statement.
“I’ve known Bud for more than 25 years and my first admiration was his dedication as a father and husband,” Atkins added.
Budzinski will take a leave of absence from the Blue Jays to mourn with his family, the statement said.
Before the start of the Blue Jays game on Sunday, there was a minute’s silence for Julia at the stadium.
“Yesterday the Blue Jays tragically lost a member of their family, Julia Budzinski.” said an announcer before the game.
“This devastating loss is felt by our entire organization and we mourn with Bud and his family,” the announcer added.