Professional FMX rider Jeff "Ox" Kargola died Friday morning after sustaining a head injury and internal bleeding during the second day of the Desert Assassins' 2011 Rip to the Tip desert motocross event on Mexico's Baja Peninsula, American Freestyle Motocross Association executive director Leah Steiger confirmed Friday.
"I received a call at 8 a.m. and at that point he was unconscious and we were trying to coordinate a Medevac lift for him," said Steiger, who's also event coordinator for the La Jolla Group. "All AFMXA members have Medevac coverage as part of their membership benefits, but Medevac has to be able to stabilize you before they can even get you in the air. Unfortunately his injuries were just too great, and he passed at Buen Pastor hospital in San Felipe, Mexico early this morning. Now we're just trying to get him home."
Kargola, 27, lived in San Clemente, Calif., and was a member of the Metal Mulisha FMX team. He started riding at the age of 12 and turned pro at 16. He competed in Moto X events at the X Games every year from 2001 to 2010 and won a silver medal in the Best Trick competition at Winter X in 2005. In recent years he'd made a name for himself racing SuperLite trucks in the Lucas Off-Road Racing Series. Last month he won Round 2 of the 2011 series at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Ariz., and was in sixth place after four stops on the series.
Rip to the Tip is an eight-day, 1,376 mile adventure ride founded by Kargola's Metal Mulisha teammate Cameron Steele. The planned course for this year's event went from Mexicali to Cabo San Lucas, according to Steiger, who notes that Kargola was surrounded by Steele and teammates Ryan Hagy and Trigger Gumm in his final moments.
"I know Brian [Deegan] and the boys are devastated," Steiger said. "The Metal Mulisha is their family and Jeff was like their brother. He will be sincerely and severely missed by everyone in the action sports community."
Kargola was a professional-level member of the AFMXA, a trade association established by freestyle motocross riders and industry leaders to, according to their website, "organize, protect, and develop the sport of Freestyle Motocross in a collective and collaborative manner." His death marks the second for the Mulisha in just over two years -- Jeremy Lusk was killed after an FMX event in Costa Rica on Feb. 10, 2009.
"He was [an] ... all-or-nothing kind of guy, but he could also handle a bike better than just about anybody in the world," said Jay Schweitzer, director of the forthcoming Metal Mulisha video "Black Friday." "I can't even believe the news that he's gone. Just last week I was out shooting with him at Danimal's and he was at the top of his game, riding like I'd never seen him ride before."
Kargola is survived by his wife Jessica and sister Kristy.