EL DORADO HILLS -- It’s been a little more than 24 hours since John Velez heard the news no friend ever wants to hear.
“His wife called me and told me that he had passed and I couldn’t even breathe," Velez remembered.
His good friend and cycling partner George Napoleon died Thursday, just days after being seriously injured in a home explosion.
A ball of fire engulfed his El Dorado Hills home Sunday morning, leaving George with burns covering 80% of his body.
The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.
Velez, like so many other friends and family members, had been hoping for a miracle.
“I wanted George to be out of pain but I didn’t want it to be him leaving us," Velez said.
After learning of George’s sudden death, Velez is trying to focus on the many good times they shared together
“He had that charisma and that magnetism is what it was. It was like I had to see him the next day," Velez said. "He was just one of those guys you don’t meet in a long time.”
Friends say George had a love for life, was an avid outdoorsman, a successful entrepreneur and a new father to a 6-month-old daughter.
"I want for his daughter to remember him. I want her to know that he was a great man ... a great man. And the six months he lived with her fulfilled a lifetime," Velez said.
"George was just amazing. He had this smile that would light up a room," remembered Erin Gorrell, George's friend and owner of Folsom Bike.
One of George’s favorite activities was riding his bike; he often frequented The Folsom Bike shop where he discovered a loving community of riders just like him.
“A lot of us have really great memories of riding with George and hanging out with George. A lot of us are mourning him and it’s really difficult. It just such a huge loss," Gorrell said.
As George's loved ones process his untimely death, they're also working to keep his memory alive -- so his bright smile will never be forgotten.
“He was one of a kind. He was a good father, a good husband, just a good human being," Velez said.
Through the month of August, the owners of Folsom Bike are holding a gift card donation drive for George Napoleon's family. Donations can be made at either the Folsom or El Dorado Hills location.