'Exceptional Father' of 3 Dies After Freak Dirt Bike Accident: He 'Made the World a Better Place'

Joelle Goldstein
·5-min read

A Southern California family is mourning the loss of their "exceptional father and husband" after he was involved in a dirt bike accident that tragically ended his life.

Corey "Buddy" Jarnagan passed away on May 5, just two days after the Fallbrook dad, 37, sustained severe injuries in a dirt bike accident, according to two GoFundMe campaigns set up by his sister-in-law, Stephanie Jarnagan, and colleague, Jessica Vesco.

"Corey was larger than life and the kind of person who knew how to lift others up and easily bring a smile to their face," Stephanie wrote. "He was a devoted husband, father, son, brother, and friend who prioritized his love of God and his family above all else."

"Corey truly made the world a better place," added Vesco, who works as an office administrator at Condon-Johnson & Associates, where Jarnagan worked as a construction project manager. "His huge smile, boisterous booming laugh, and lovable personality will forever be missed."

Speaking exclusively to PEOPLE, Stephanie explains that the "freak accident" took place on a privately-rented track at Cahuilla Creek Motocross track in Anza.

"It was a freak accident as far as we know," she explains. "Corey was in a helmet and wearing all proper safety gear. He fell off his bike, landed wrong, and sustained a severe spinal cord injury."

GoFundMe Corey Jarnagan with his kids

RELATED: Missing Missouri Father of 3 Found Alive by Dirt Bike Rider 7 Days After Car Crashed into Ravine

Jacob Menath, Corey's friend of 20 years, also disclosed similar details in a Facebook tribute, noting the father of three wasn't doing "anything out of the ordinary" when the accident occurred.

"Corey was riding his dirtbike on a track in Southern California and was not going overly fast," Menath explained in the post. "He just hit a bump and ended up falling off his bike and breaking his neck."

After the accident, Stephanie tells PEOPLE that Corey was airlifted to a nearby hospital. While there, the father of three underwent surgery, where doctors determined that he had suffered damage to his arteries.

Around that time, Corey was able to share one of his final moments with his wife of eight years, Alison, according to Stephanie.

"Alison was able to see him on Sunday after the injury when he was stabilized and he woke up and communicated with her via blinking," Stephanie recalls. "It was brief, but we all felt so optimistic about his survival at that point."

Unfortunately, Corey's condition worsened in the next few days and he suffered a series of strokes, which cut the blood flow and oxygen to his brain. It was later determined by doctors that he no longer had any brain activity, Stephanie says.

RELATED VIDEO: Texas Dad Dies After Sand Tunnel Buries Him Alive on Florida Family Vacation: 'Our Hearts Ache'

Texas Dad Dies After Sand Tunnel Buries Him Alive on Florida Family Vacation: 'Our Hearts Ache'

Lee Goggin, the 35-year-old Texas father of three who was buried alive by a tunnel he was digging in the sand during a family vacation in Florida on Sunday, has died

Because of the restrictions the hospital had in place amid the coronavirus pandemic, Stephanie notes it was difficult for the extended family to properly say goodbye.

"The COVID situation has made life for families who experience tragedies like this exceptionally cruel," she explains. "His parents and siblings were able to go in and say goodbye, but everyone else had to record messages over the phone for him. It was probably the single saddest experience of my life."

And though his immediate family was able to be there in person, Stephanie says Alison chose to keep their three young children — Cason, 5; Reese, 4; and Henry, 2 — away during that time.

"Alison felt that was the best decision for them — he was on life support by the time the hospital would have let them in and she felt that would be too traumatic," Stephanie explains. "They know their father is in heaven, but I'm not sure how much they truly understand."

Because Corey was the sole provider for Alison and their children, two GoFundMe pages have been set up to financially support his family as they adjust to a new, heartbreaking reality.

"We are raising money to support his young family with the hopes that we can help meet a financial goal to allow Alison to raise her kids at home at least until they are all school-age," Stephanie wrote on the page. "We know Corey would have wanted that (he was the sole breadwinner). He has left a giant hole in all our hearts."

So far, the campaigns have raised over $170,000 combined. (Vesco's fundraiser exceeded its initial $150,000 goal, while Stephanie's is currently working its way toward a $25,000 goal.)

RELATED: Father of 6 Dead After Strong Wave Breaks His Neck in 'Freak Accident' at North Carolina Beach

In the meantime, many have continued to express their heartbreak on social media, writing touching tributes about how much Corey loved his wife and children.

"Corey Jarnagan was an amazing son, father, husband, brother, and best friend," Menath wrote. "He loved his family more than anything I can put into words. It was unconditional and everlasting love."

"The world lost an incredible guy last week. Corey Ryan Jarnagan ....an advocate of good in our community, a friend, an adoring husband, and an amazing father," wrote Alison's friend, Courtney Stevens.

"Family was everything to Corey," Stevens added. "He lived and loved intensely, adored Alison, and his greatest joy was being a father."

"Corey was the ultimate 'family man.' His true passion was his wife and kids and he was an exceptional father and husband. The best of the best," wrote Vesco on the GoFundMe page.

Adds Stephanie to PEOPLE: "It's impossible to think about Corey without seeing his giant, goofy grin and remembering how he gave the best bear hugs. He didn't let go until he was good and ready, and that always made you feel loved."

"We want his kids to remember him as a larger-than-life guy that would do anything for them," she continues. "If you looked up 'fun dad' in the dictionary, I wouldn't be surprised if Corey's face was there. He will truly be missed by all of us."