The family, sat stunned and grief-stricken, in front of their west Petaluma home Monday as well-wishers stopped by to offer condolences.
The Cox-McGowan family, already struggling to deal with 19-year-old Danny Cox's catastrophic spinal injury a year ago, was dealt another tragic blow Sunday evening when the young man died in a single-vehicle crash on Highway 101.
"He was so kind, so kind to people," said his mother, Maureen McGowan, tears flowing as others tried to console her. "He was so giving."
Cox died when the 2005 Dodge Magnum wagon he was driving struck a tree along the freeway about 5:45 p.m. Sunday.
He was heading south on the highway north of Novato when the vehicle left the road and hit an oak tree near Olompali State Park. He was alone in the car.
There were no skid marks to suggest he'd been trying to brake prior to the collision, said CHP Officer Chris Rardin. Witnesses told the CHP he'd been travelling between 60-70 mph when he hit the tree.
The impact destroyed the vehicle and scattered debris about 300 feet.
Cox had gone out for a drive, his mother said, something that he enjoyed doing since he'd passed his driver's test on July 26. The car, which he had for several months before his injury, had been retrofitted with a special device he slid his hand into so he could maneuver the car.
McGowan thought maybe her son lost control of the car, not being experienced at highway speeds with his physical limitations or the new driving equipment.
"Maybe he overcorrected or undercorrected," she said, leaning against a porch railing.
"He was a great driver," said his father, Chris Cox, sitting quietly nearby.
An investigation into the crash was continuing Monday by CHP and the Marin County Coroner's Office.
McGowan downplayed suggestions that her son purposely crashed.
"He was sad. He was sad since his accident," she said. "But there's no way he did it on purpose, not with other cars around.
"He did struggle with despair," she continued. "But it made him feel better to drive."
McGowan said her son would not have killed himself without saying goodbye, either in a note or text message.
He was showing signs of improvement with his motor skills since a family trip in July to Panama where he received stem cell injections, according to a family online blog.
He was struggling with his physical restrictions, his mother said, but was enjoying having his driver's license and his private granny unit behind the main family home.
"We just picked out carpet together," McGowan said.
A diving accident a year ago at Lake Tahoe changed the course of Danny's life, indeed the whole family's, in an instant.
On that day, Aug. 10, 2010, Cox made a shallow dive at a South Lake Tahoe beach. Family members said Cox was running toward the lake and in 2 to 3 feet of water, when he did a "flat dive," like a belly flop.
At that moment, he'd told them, a wave created by a boat's wake "pushed in on his head."
Cox's neck was broken and his spinal cord damaged. The track standout at Petaluma High School would never walk again.