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Lindbergh Bay Drowning Victim Remembered as Family Caretaker

Aug. 21, 2007 — Just seconds after Lavelle Gumbs dove into the waves of Lindbergh Bay Sunday, family and friends knew something was wrong.
The tall, athletic 21-year-old was a strong swimmer, but he didn't respond when a second wave crashed over his floating body.
A firefighter and family friend rushed to Gumbs and pulled him to shore, but CPR did not work. No one knows what killed Lavelle Gumbs that afternoon, but St. Thomians said Tuesday he was someone you could depend on: responsible, motivated and devoted to his family.
Gumbs attended Joseph Gomez Elementary School on St. Thomas, then moved with his parents, Denise and Rudy Gumbs, to Germantown, Md., as a young teen, said Doris M. Lindquist, his great-grandmother.
Lavelle helped raise his two younger brothers, studied hard in school and sometimes worked two or three jobs at once to earn money for college, Lindquist said. He frequently visited the territory, keeping close ties with cousins and extended family in St. Thomas, said Jojo Gumbs, Lavelle's uncle.
A love of cooking drove Lavelle to culinary college, where he earned a degree. But he decided not to be a chef by trade, instead setting his sights on learning to be an architect. A Red Hook architect took Gumbs on as an intern, Lindquist said.
"He was supposed to go into work Monday, but unfortunately he had his accident," she said. "Everybody spoke well of him. His mother said, when news got out (of his death), her house was flooded with people from the neighborhood. He was a very loving child. I don't know how I'm going to make out.”
Jojo Gumbs, a firefighter, was at the beach with Lavelle that day. They were celebrating Jojo's league basketball team's championship. Lavelle was an avid basketball fan and loved to play.
"We're not sure” what happened, Gumbs said. “The water was not that rough. He dove in and someone saw him come up and float. Then another wave hit him and he didn't react."
Police ruled the death accidental and an autopsy was planned, said a police spokeswoman.
Funeral arrangements were not complete as of Tuesday.
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