Vincent Barbee was remembered as a popular, fun-loving student and a good athlete at a memorial service this week that drew about 1,000 mourners to the Redondo Union High School campus where he attended classes.
The 15-year-old freshman died March 5 after falling from a balcony on The Esplanade in Redondo Beach.
The exact cause of Vincent’s death has not yet been determined. There were no signs of foul play and apparently nobody else was at the residence when he fell, according to Redondo Beach police Lt. Shawn Freeman.
Vincent’s cause of death is listed as deferred, pending toxicology tests, which could take weeks, according to Ed Winter, assistant chief at the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.
A source with firsthand knowledge from the family said his death is believed to be an accident and that he might have been trying to remove Christmas lights from the balcony.
Vincent returned after 5 p.m. from playing in a freshman-sophomore baseball game at RUHS against Wilson High School. He reportedly was dropped off by his mother, former councilmember and PTA leader Martha Barbee, who was only away for about eight minutes before returning home, according to the source.
On Sunday, friends and family came together for a paddle-out in the morning near the condominium complex where Vincent died, followed by a memorial service at the high school.
In addition to playing baseball, Vincent was a member of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps program and aspired to become a Navy SEAL. Friends recalled his broad smile, classic good looks and contagious sense of humor.
“He was not the biggest guy at Redondo, but man did he have the biggest heart,” said older brother Steven Barbee, who led the service.
“He was never the type of baseball player to throw a helmet when he struck out,” Steven said. “He was never the friend that would hold a grudge or single someone out, and never the family member who would decline an opportunity to help out.”
Former Redondo Beach Mayor Steve Aspel said Vincent interviewed him for a class project in junior high and he found him to be attentive and engrossed in what he had to say. Aspel said he had a classic face.
“He looks like a sailor, like he belongs in the military. Just a great kid,” Aspel said. “He was a young man that I think was destined to be a greater good for the whole world and it got cut short.”
Close friend Evan Herr said Vincent was a strong presence in whatever he did.
“He had so much confidence, it was amazing,” Herr said. “His presence was a gift; even though he’s gone, he’s still with us. He’s in our hearts and watching over us.”
Corinne Grace, whose husband, Eric, coached Vincent at Redondo Sunset League, said he was one-of-a-kind.
“Looking out on this audience, everyone can truly see how much Vincent was loved and how he connected with so many people,” Grace said. “That instant connection was all it took for our families to become lifelong friends.”
According to police, officers arrived at the Barbee home at about 6:30 p.m. after receiving phone calls of a young man having fallen from the building in the 500 block of The Esplanade. Paramedics began life-saving efforts and transferred Vincent to a local hospital, where he reportedly died from his injuries.
Martha Barbee, who came to the United States from Cuba as a refugee at age 9, was elected to the Redondo Beach City Council District 1 seat in 2016. She was defeated by Nils Nehrenheim in a run-off election in May 2017. During the campaign, she spoke often about her three sons and daughter, who frequently volunteered to canvass door to door.