Bay Area family opens up about son’s tragic death during recess

A Bay Area family that experienced an unimaginable tragedy is opening up about their son’s death in the hopes of raising awareness for school safety.

It was just five days before Christmas 2019 when Alex Quanbeck, 7, was playing during recess at Mark Day School, a private school in San Rafael. As he was tossing a football around with friends, he saw a rolling gate was open. When he went to close it, the 400-pound chain-link gate fell and crushed him. He died at a nearby hospital.

“I remember the coroner coming to our house and crying with us because his stocking was hanging up,” Alex’s mother, Dayna Quanbeck, told KTVU. 

The Mark Day School in San Rafael.

The Mark Day School in San Rafael.

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Now 18 months later, both the school and the Quanbeck family are speaking publicly about the tragedy. 

On June 2, Mark Day School sent a letter to families taking responsibility for Alex’s death.

“It is important to know that our school accepts full responsibility for the events that took Alex’s life, and we want to reiterate that Alex was in no way responsible for what happened. He was an innocent victim,” the letter reads.

The school says the rolling gate fell a month before during a P.E. class. Students informed the faculty, who put it back up and “notified our former facilities director, who did not take necessary action.” The school admitted that it didn’t notify the fence contractor or any other technician who could have fixed the gate, although it alleges the gate was “negligently designed, constructed, installed and serviced by the fence contractor.”

Since Alex’s death, his parents Dayna and Eric have started the Hummingbird Alliance, a non-profit that launches this fall. The group aims to raise awareness for safety issues on school campuses. “The concern for school safety is not new,” the alliance site reads. “However, we lack consistent standards, training and resources across public and private schools, school districts and state levels.”

The Quanbecks hope to raise donations as well to help fund school safety programs.

“That’s our purpose in life now,” Eric Quanbeck told the San Francisco Chronicle. (SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle are both owned by Hearst but operate independently of one another.)

Alex is survived by his parents and three siblings: twins Ethan and Elliott, 10, and Abigail, 2.

“He was the heartbeat of his family and the instigator of all mischief,” reads a statement on the Hummingbird Alliance site. “He loved with his whole heart, and lived life with curiosity, humor and style.”

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