Marenda Podhorksy, a mother of four who was one of two adults nearby when 14-year-old Miguel Martinez impaled himself on the statue's horn as he played in a park early Saturday near the National Ranching Heritage Center on the Texas Tech University campus in Lubbock, said she's not sure if the boy slipped, tripped or was trying to hurdle the horn.
"There are a hundred scenarios that could have happened," said Podhorksy, whose son Jeremy Warren was friends with Martinez. The teenager was spending the night with Warren and the boys and some other children were awake well past midnight after eating sweets to celebrate her boyfriend's birthday.
There is gravel around the statue and light fixtures surround it, so the teen could have slipped on the gravel, tripped on a light fixture or been trying to jump the horn as Warren had done a short time before the accident, the woman said.
"Maybe we shouldn't have been out that late," she said. "It was pure accident. We'd been playing for like an hour."
When Podhorsky heard a thump, she thought Martinez might have been knocked down by the bull's horn during a game of hide-and-seek. Instead, the boy suffered a chest wound. Podhorsky said she knew when she saw what had happened that Martinez might die.
University police are investigating the teen's death. The department would not release a tape of the 911 call made by Podhorsky's boyfriend.
Martinez lived with his 18-year-old sister but was over at Podhorsky's house almost daily, Podhorsky said. Her son, she said, is dealing with his friend's death as well as can be expected.
"We just keep talking about the good times," Podhorsky said. "I hate it for my kids. I hate the fact that I couldn't help him. He wasn't my kid but I claimed him as my kid. He was with me all the time. I just feel like I let him down."
Messages left Tuesday for Martinez's sister, Vanessa Martinez, were not immediately returned. Attempts to reach their mother, Judith Leseberg, were unsuccessful.
A friend of Vanessa Martinez, Brenda Garcia, said she heard that the teen was able to remove himself from the horn "and then turned around and said, 'Jeremy, help!'"
Warren told KCBD-TV in Lubbock that he then rushed over to his friend.
In a statement, the university said changes could come as a result of the accident.
"Anytime unforeseen accidents occur, we review our policies, practices, and even our facilities to determine if any changes are needed to avoid similar events in the future," university spokesman Chris Cook said.