Over 100 gather to remember UWM student who died during spring break

CREATED Mar. 26, 2012

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  • Keller Russell reports Video by wtmj.com

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MILWAUKEE- More than one hundred people gathered at Pius XI High School Monday night to remember a former classmate who died in an accident on spring break.

Jake Winkler, 21, was studying business at UWM, hoping to go into sales. 

He spent his high school years at Pius XI, where friends and former classmates came together, trying to make sense of such a tragic loss.  One look around the crowd and you know, Jake Winkler is loved by many.

"Great man. He affected all of us with that passion of his. I love him and I will miss him. And it just sucks," one of his friends told the group gathered for a candlelight vigil.

The 21-year-old UWM student died over the weekend after falling from the balcony of a condominium in Panama City Beach, Florida.  Winkler and four car loads of friends were celebrating spring break. 

Those who knew him stood in shock Monday as they gathered to pay tribute to him outside Pius XI High School.  "It didn't have to happen this way. It didn't have to," said one friend.  "He was one of the most kind hearted, compassionate, selfless people I've ever met in my entire life," said another.

Others told the crowd what Jake meant to them.  "Jake, I love you and I wish you were still here."

Their words -- stirring both tears and laughter.  Some wrote messages on balloons before letting them drift away into the sky.  Friends found comfort in hugs and knowing Jake would be smiling, seeing all of the love.

Panama City Beach police told TODAY'S TMJ4 they're still investigating why Winkler fell over the balcony.  They hope to learn more when an autopsy is completed this week.