61-year-old killed while horseback riding

LAKE VIEW TERRACE, Calif. Buddy Dean Lilly, 61, had been riding horses all his life, but on Sunday, the Lake View Terrace resident took his last ride. He was killed after he lost control of his horse and slammed head-on into a tree. He died the same day as his 35th wedding anniversary.

"I love him very much, and he love[d] me too very much. No matter what, we [will] always be together," said Milagros Lilly, Buddy Dean's wife.

The accident happen during one of Lilly's daily rides at an equestrian center at Hansen Dam Park. Family members say Lilly was riding a friend's horse when the animal suddenly got spooked. It took off running and Lilly slipped sideways on his saddle. Seconds later, he hit a tree and was knocked off.

Friends at a nearby café say Lilly was well known in the community.

"He's been coming here ... for 11 years, every single morning. And, he was a good friend. And I am really shocked and sad about his death. I lost a huge part of me actually ... not only a customer," said Weynitu Bayou, a restaurant owner.

Lilly's family says in all his years of riding, he never wore a helmet. He wasn't wearing one when he ran into the tree.

"It's very important. You got to wear a helmet. If you don't wear a helmet, you're taking a chance and a big risk. And it is obviously that a helmet probably could have prevented some serious injury or even death," said Ronald Escoto, who rides horses.

Lilly's family says Buddy Dean was an expert rider. They say this was just a tragic accident.

"He was doing something he loved doing ... He had a passion for riding horses," said Danny Lilly, Buddy Dean's son.

- Get more local news headlines from Los Angeles
- Have a news tip? Send your tips, video, or pictures

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.