Canoeing Tragedy Claims 2nd Life; Body of Missing 18 Year Old Paddler Recovered


Guam – Guam Fire and Rescue have recovered the body of the missing paddler from Sunday’s canoeing tragedy.

The 18 year old man was spotted by an HSC-25 helicopter that had been searching the waters between Tumon and Hagatna since yesterday [Sunday].

He was brought into the Hagatna Boat Basin by Guam Fire and Rescue late this morning [Monday]. Friends at the scene identified him as Ryan Cepeda.

He is the second victim from the 6 who capsized aboard the outrigger canoe just after 5 pm Sunday afternoon.

A 21 year old woman was recovered from the water yesterday and pronounced dead on arrival at Guam Memorial Hospital. Friends and family also confirmed for PNC News that her identity is Kayleen Mendiola.

The 6 in the outrigger were all members of the George Washington High School rowers club. Another man aboard a smaller outrigger canoe went to their rescue but his canoe also overturned in the high surf.

A Search & Rescue Command Post was set up Sunday night and the search went on throughout the night through this morning when the body of the 18 year old was recovered.

Sunday, Guam Fire Battalion Chief Roy Chief Dirige said that the man in the smaller outrigger who had made the initial rescue attempt was himself rescued, along with a woman and another man from the larger canoe. All 3 were pulled off the reef by GFD personnel on jet skies after being spotted by the HSC-25 helicopter.

Chief Dirige said the woman was lifeless when she was taken off the reef. GMH Nursing Supervisor Sally Quichocho told PNC News that the 21 year old woman was pronounced Dead On Arrival at the hospital Sunday evening.  Another male paddler from the larger canoe was in stable condition at GMH.
The 4 other canoers were all rescued without injury.

At the scene, the President of the Marianas Paddle Sports Racing Association [MPSRA], Jeff Nantino, told PNC News that even though the paddlers on the larger canoe were members of the GW High Rowing Club, not all of them were GW High School students.

Nantino said he had coached the missing 18 year old when he was a student at GW, but the 18 year old had since graduated.

The 21 year old woman who drowned was also a member of the GW rowing club and she was not a student either.

Nantino declined to say whether the other 4 paddlers on the larger outrigger were students. He also declined to explain what they were doing out there when a High Surf Advisory was in effect.

“We’re in shock,” Nantino told PNC News. “Our hearts go out to the families,” he said.

The National Weather Service had issued a High Surf Advisory that went into effect Sunday morning at 6am and is scheduled to last through Thursday evening at 6 pm.

The surf “definitely played a big role” in the accident said Chief Dirige. “It was 10 to 12 feet when he got here.”

The larger canoe broke in half and it is remained logged in the reef as of Sunday night. GFD personnel on the scene Monday morning said the canoe had now broken completely apart.