Carson High students mourn classmates

Jim Grant/Nevada AppealCarson High School students gather for a candle light vigil for classmates Stephen Anderson and Keegan Aiazzi before class on Monday morning.

Jim Grant/Nevada AppealCarson High School students gather for a candle light vigil for classmates Stephen Anderson and Keegan Aiazzi before class on Monday morning.

Carson High School students placed flowers and left notes of tribute Monday in the parking spaces of two classmates who died over the weekend in a scuba diving accident.

"RIP Stevo and Keegan" was written across the rear windshield of a car in an adjacent spot.

"They're grieving," said Principal Ron Beck. "We lost two members of our family. It's a hard day."

Juniors Keegan Aiazzi, 17, and Stephen Anderson, 16, died while scuba diving Saturday in the Monterey Bay with about two dozen people, according to Lt. Jeff Jackson with the Monterey Police Department.

The teens had joined oceanography classmates on an annual school-sanctioned field trip that began Wednesday to the Monterey Aquarium, said Carson City School District Superintendent Richard Stokes.

When the field trip ended on Friday, some students stayed behind to scuba dive. The trip was organized through Adventure Scuba in Reno, with the Carson High School oceanography teacher, a scuba instructor who encourages her students to become certified in the sport, serving as a chaperone.

According to a press release issued by the school district Monday, the boys successfully completed dives Friday evening and Saturday morning, but did not surface after the second dive Saturday.

Both were active in school activities and played on the football team. Classmates described the pair as "the best of friends," known for their cheerful dispositions.

"They were the nicest, funnest kids," said Nicolas Garcia, 16, who played football with Aiazzi since the two were about 8. "No matter what was going on, they always had a smile on their faces and were cheering people up."

It is a characteristic Amber Holbert, 16, said she hopes to emulate even in her sorrow.

"They were so fun and loving," she said. "They wouldn't want us to be down. When we had bad days, they could turn them into the best days."

After school Monday, dozens of students climbed C Hill to display the teens' initials on the hillside.

"They were loved by the whole community," said Tommy Champion, 17. "We want the community to be able to see this and remember them."

Nathaniel Brown, 17, said he felt close to the boys while working on the project.

"It feels like something Stephen and Keegan would do," he said.

During school, counselors were called in for the day, some volunteering their time from other community organizations. Students could attend classes, but were free to talk with counselors or visit the memorial.

"It was pretty much an open day," Beck said. "It was just something that needed to happen for the students."

Carson City School District Superintendent Richard Stokes spent most of the day at the school and described the mood as, "very somber, very quiet. Almost reverent."

Parents of both the boys visited the school to offer and receive comfort from their children's friends and classmates.

"There were lots of hugs, lots of tears," Stokes said. "I saw some smiles, too, as they remembered good times."

He said it was good for the students to be able to interact with the boys' parents.

"I got the sense there were a lot of these kids who had been in their homes," he said. "They were friends with these kids."

A memorial at the school is being planned for later this week.

Students described the junior class as being exceptionally close, and several heard about the accident almost immediately through text messages and phone calls from others on the trip.

The memorial in the parking lot was arranged by students over the weekend, and also encouraged classmates to wear the school's colors of blue and white in mourning.

A Facebook page "Stephen Anderson & Keegan Aiazzi Memorial Page" was created Sunday and had more than 1,500 fans by Monday evening.

Friends, family, fellow students and former teachers are among those who have written on the page.

Champion said he feels some comfort in knowing the best friends were together in the end.

"They were always together, and they died together," he said.

Francesca Tonino, 17, said she knows the pair still is with them.

"You couldn't pick better angels," she said.


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