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October 17
1837 - Trapper Peter LaBeck killed by grizzly bear at El Tejon [story]


Steven Kokkila in April 2011.

Steven Kokkila, 26, of Canyon Country, died in a solo motorcycle accident on Sierra Highway near College of the Canyons’ Canyon Country campus Friday about 10:05 p.m., according to Lt. Eric Lasko of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.

The station received a call at 10:09 p.m., Lasko said. “When deputies arrived they saw that the motorcycle rider had been ejected from the vehicle and observed him to be deceased at the scene. It looks like speed was possibly a factor….he was driving at a high rate of speed, according to at least one witness.”

According to a statemetn issued by the station’s Traffic Office on Saturday at 2:30 a.m., Kokkila was driving northbound on Sierra Highway at a high rate of speed and lost control just south of Linda Vista Street. He drove over the center median and hit several trees before coming to rest in the southbound lanes of Sierra Highway.

Kokkila’s bike prior to the crash.

L.A. County Fire paramedics arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and pronounced Kokkila dead, Lasko said.

“It took about four and a half hours to investigate,” Lasko said. “The Coroner came and removed the body from the scene.”

Lasko said it’s not known at this time whether alcohol or drugs were a factor in the collision.

“There’s nothing (about that) right now,” he said. “The Coroner is going to have to do toxicology. Right now, so far, the biggest factor looks like speed.”

Steven Edward Kokkila (pronounced ko-KELL-a) was born in Minneapolis, Minn., on June 19, 1986. He is survived by his parents, Ed Kokkila and Sandra Pearson, and sister Kristin, 30, all of Maple Grove, Minn.

Ed, Kristin and Steven Kokkila.

They were all together with other family members in Maple Grove on Saturday, supporting each other and making sure no one was left alone, his father told this reporter. But Pearson “is taking it very hard,” he said.

Steven Kokkila relocated to the Santa Clarita Valley with his mother in 2000 when she accepted employment here. He graduated high school then attended College of the Canyons before returning to Minnesota in spring 2008 to attend school there. He was a 2010 graduate of the Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis, where he earned a degree in Electrical Construction and Maintenance.

Ed Kokkila said his son returned to the SCV in September 2011, because he wanted to reconnect with the friends and contacts he had made during his earlier time here.

Sandra Pearson and her son Steven Kokkila share some pizza at his girlfriend’s high school graduation party in June 2005. Photo by Stephen K. Peeples.

“Last year he came to me and said to me, ‘I’ve got to go. I can’t stay here anymore. I’ve got to go back and be with my friends,’ and within a couple of weeks he was on the road back to California,” his father said. “He’s where he wanted to be, and I think things were looking good for him.”

Steven Kokkila was working for a security company in the SCV installing security and cable systems, and was back together with his high school sweetheart, his father said. She is devastated, but is with close mutual friends and parents, with other support on call.

Steven Kokkila celebrated his 26th birthday this week. His father’s gift was a set of new tires for his motorcycle.

“I spoke with him last on Tuesday, his birthday,” Ed Kokklia said. “He was talking about getting new tires for his motorcycle, and I told him that would be my birthday gift to him.”

Asked about particularly fond memories of his son, Kokkila said they were countless, but shared two.

One was a Halloween a few years ago in Minnesota. “He made the decision to dress up as Santa, and he and his sister and her friends went downtown Minneapolis, and went bar-hopping and stuff,” Kokkila said. “Apparently Steven had all sorts of women that wanted to sit on Santa’s lap and stuff, and I really got a kick out of that. The next day, he was just in heaven because of all of the attention he was getting and how much fun it was.

“He was home (in Minnesota) going to school and at that time he wasn’t real, real happy,” Kokkila said. “Kristin, his sister, decided, ‘We’re taking you out,’ and I’m telling you, that was a wonderful thing for him. I know he had a wonderful time.”

Kokkila recalled other times he and his son and daughter spent quality time together. “We went to Pismo Beach a few times to go four-wheeling, and he loved doing that,” he said. “It scared the heck out of me because it can be a pretty dangerous place, and I just remember how much fun he had there. There’s a photo — actually, I put it on my Facebook page, on my cover picture, with him and Kristin on the four-wheelers, side by side.”

Ed Kokkila said Steven loved snowboarding and golf. “He started playing golf when he was quite young, so he just had this natural swing,” he said. “The kid could hit a golf ball, I’ll tell ya, and he loved playing golf. He loved showing me up, because every time we’d go out, I’d tell him he’s never going to beat me and all this stuff. About two years ago, he started beating me, and I just know it made him feel so good. But he just loved being on the golf course.”

Kokkila said he and Steven’s mother (who divorced in 1990) are finalizing plans to have their son’s body cremated and returned to Minnesota for interment.

Pearson and Kristin Kokkila will travel to Santa Clarita to retrieve Steven’s remains along with his personal belongings and pickup truck. A memorial gathering for him in the SCV is also being planned; details are pending and will be announced when firmed, his father said.

Meanwhile, Kristin Kokkila has set up a Facebook group page for her brother titled “Steve Kokkila AKA Hamster will be missed” for family and friends to post messages and photos (he got the nickname in elementary school and it stuck).

How would Ed Kokkila like people to remember his son? “He was genuine. He was friends with everybody. He didn’t have any enemies. He was just a good-natured kid.”

The Sheriff’s Station requests that anyone who witnessed the collision contact Detective Jeffery Maag in the Traffic Office at 661-799-5111.

Unattributed photos courtesy of the Kokkila family. Used by permission.

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