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'They were like brothers': SIU journalism student, his best friend among eight dead at Houston concert

  • SIU student Jacob Jurinek.

    SIU student Jacob Jurinek.
    Courtesy of the Jurinek Family

  • U of D student Franco Patino.

    U of D student Franco Patino.
    University of Dayton

By Steve Zalusky
Daily Herald News Service
updated: 11/8/2021 11:51 PM

An SIU student and his best friend from childhood were among eight concertgoers killed Friday when a crowd surged toward the stage during a performance by rapper Travis Scott.

SIU student Jacob Jurinek and his friend, Franco Patino, both 21 and from suburban Naperville, died during the Astroworld music festival at Houston's NRG Park, their families confirmed Sunday.

"We are all devastated and are left with a huge hole in our lives," Ron Jurinek, Jacob's father, said in a written statement. "Right now, we ask for the time and space for our family to process this tragic news and begin to heal. We're comforted by the fact that the hundreds of people Jake touched over the years will carry a piece his spirit with them."

According to his father, Jake was beloved by his family and a seemingly countless number of friends for his contagious enthusiasm, boundless energy and unwavering positive attitude. Known as "Big Jake" by his younger cousins, his statement says Jake will be remembered most as the best friend to his father -- they were brought closer together than ever by the passing of Jake's mother, Alison, in 2011.

Jurinek was a journalism student with a specialty in advertising at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He also was a student intern with the university's athletic media team.

Jan Thompson, director of the School of Journalism, confirmed Jake's involvement.

"We -- faculty, staff and students -- are heartbroken that Jacob lost his life at this concert," she emailed this paper.

"He was an amazing person who was a rising star in our program. He was working on professional advertising campaigns in our AdLab and seemed to have found his passion."

Thompson said the department's hearts go out to his family.

SIU Chancellor Austin Lane said the news has come as a shock to students.

"We are brokenhearted to lose a member of the Saluki family, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends," Lane said in the university's statement.

"Jacob was a creative, intelligent young man, with a promising career in journalism and advertising. As we mourn this loss in our community, we will keep Jacob's family and friends in our thoughts."

Jake's best friend, Franco Patino, was a mechanical engineering technology major at the University of Dayton, minoring in human movement biomechanics. He was a member of Alpha Psi Lambda, a Hispanic-interest fraternity; the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers; and was working in an engineering co-op program in Mason, Ohio.

"He had a really big heart," said his older brother, Julio Patino Jr. "He was always helping out other people. He was just the type of person who always wanted to be there for others."

Franco Patino chose to major in engineering because he wanted to improve the lives of others, especially his mother, who has a medical condition that makes it difficult for her to walk, his older brother said.

His father, Julio Patino Sr., told The Associated Press that Franco's mother was severely injured in an automobile accident in Mexico two years ago. Patino described how his son -- who enjoyed weight lifting, football and rugby -- used his strength to break a door and free his mom from the wreckage.

Julio Patino Jr. said that in the engineering co-op, Franco was helping to develop a way to prevent blockages in arteries.

He said Franco and Jake had been best friends since grade school in Naperville.

"They were so close to each other. They were like brothers," he said. "Even at the very end, they were together."

Patino, Jurinek and the others died as chaos erupted in a crowd of about 50,000 Friday night, according to news reports. The dead ranged in age from 14 to 27.

Julio Patino Jr. called the disaster "a tragedy on many different levels" and said he believes it was preventable.

"It's unacceptable. Disgusting," he said, noting reports that the performance continued as audience members collapsed and received medical assistance. "And seeing my little brother, in his final moments, in video, is heartbreaking. I want to see change. I don't want this to ever happen again."

Among those who saw Jake Jurinek in his last moments was 23-year-old Houston resident Izel Ayala and her sister, 19-year-old Ruby Ayala.

When Franco and Jake learned that Ayala and her sister were at their first hip-hop concert, Jake said, "Protect them at all costs," Izel Ayala said.

"He took us physically under his wing," Ayala added.

She described the scene as the crowd surged and crushed members of the audience.

"It was for sure scary. We were cheek to cheek with other people, all these strangers around us," Ayala said. "If we would have just switched positions or if we were just in his position, we would have gone the same path to death. That would have been us."

Julio Patino Jr. warned that GoFundMe accounts purportedly set up to help the families are fake. He said there is no GoFundMe account.