Environmental Science Department Remembers Keven Pineda

Through the Santa Monica College’s Environmental Science Department, organizers held a memorial to honor the life of Keven Pineda, a 20-year-old Miami, Florida native who passed away this summer in Oregon. Pineda was actively enrolled in SMC’s Organic Gardening Program and worked with Club Grow, a SMC student organization that focuses on sustainable agricultural crop development. Pineda's SMC peers and co-workers commemorated his sincerity & committed participation at the ES department.

A tree planting ceremony to commemorate Pineda’s life took place this Tuesday, September 19th, 2017, at 11:15 AM, in the Environmental Sciences’ Organic Learning Garden, located at SMC's Main Campus. The celebration of life included food, snacks, and socializing. The Organic Learning Garden, employed Pineda as the lead Gardener for about a year.

Keven Pineda, a sophomore at SMC had a profound interest in organic farming, said Ferris Kawar, an Environmental Affairs Committee Chairman at SMC. Kawar, who had been Pineda’s student-employee supervisor, describes him as “this gentle giant, you know the classic,… and huge broad shoulders. He loved to eat.”

Pineda was participating in an agriculture 'educational and cultural exchange program’ this summer at Upper Rogue Organics, a farming colony. The 10-acre crop farm is a family-owned and operated business, located in an agricultural region renowned for the volcanic soil, temperate climate and prime wild chanterelle mushroom hunting.

The SMC student was last seen alive during the early morning hours of the Independence Day, July 4th, by other workers residing at U.R. Organics. Media reports corroborate that Mr. Pineda was allegedly accompanied by two persons, inside of an automobile that departed U.R. Organics farm colony for Crater Lake National Park sometime before sunrise.

Kawar also said that Pineda was just days shy of his 21st birthday. “He also wanted to be a firefighter, so he had this [career] track. His plan was to do both. He wanted to get up, go up to school at Humboldt and then find a plot of land up in Northern California and be a firefighter and do organic farming”, Kawar said.

Grief Counselor Roxana Zarrabi, a SMC staff psychologist spoke with Club Grow members just after news of Pineda’s death. “Talking about [death] can be fearful. When I went to visit them, they were all sharing stories about Keven,” Zarrabi said.

Zarrabi mentioned that for students who are confronting the recent passing of a loved one, human casualty or loss is a common fear. “Grief support counseling is so important, it is important to take care of oneself, to engage in self care and to pay attention to [well] being," Zarrabi said.

National park officials in Jackson, County Oregon informed the local press that according to undisclosed eyewitnesses, Pineda had succumbed to fatal injuries suffered from a high altitude fall at Crater Lake National Park in Jackson County, Oregon, sometime during the early morning hours of July 4th, 2017.

Authorities responsible for recovering the body of Pineda had estimated that the victim was plummeted some 70 feet, when the land shelf along the rim of an inactive volcano within Crater Park suddenly dematerialized beneath him.

The incident was reported to authorities around 5:45 am, and the body of Pineda was then recovered by Crater Lake National Park rangers from the caldera of Mount Mazama, approximately 25 miles from where Pineda had told his sister that he would be staying.

The park, which encompasses Crater Lake, is a popular hiking trail destination that includes access to The Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile (4,260 km) long-distance hiking and equestrian trail that stretches from the Mexican to Canadian borders. It is also the location of a regional pastime for many locals and aficionados who enjoy free-diving and cliff-jumping. Many illegally trespass to the more secluded areas off the major trails to frequently upload videos online of daredevil leaps from cliffs into the depths of the United States' deepest lake.

Pineda purchased a $50 membership online over the internet through the Worldwide Organization of Organic Farming. WWOOF-USA is a for-profit service contract facilitator that connects students and travelers with agricultural employment opportunities throughout the US and Virgin Islands.

The WWOOF-USA website at wwoofusa.org describes itself as, ‘an educational and cultural exchange program’. Spearheaded in 2001 by Sarah Potenza, a UC-Santa Cruz graduate, WWOOF-USA requires that all farms registered with the San Francisco based business, provide lodging accommodations as well as meals. Headquartered in California at 654 Fillmore Street in San Francisco, it currently has 20,000 registered workers and facilitates, with more than 2,155 US farms that includes dairies, orchards, vineyards and ranches, according to its website.

Pineda utilized the services of WWOOF-USA to procure arrangement of the ten day agreement with U.R. Organics, located in the City of Prospect, in exchange for boarding and lodging.

It is unclear if the SMC student was accompanied along the rim of the caldera. Authorities had pointed out that the victim's body was located within a quarter mile from the nearest designated pedestrian trail way. The Park does not currently have cell phone service and is about 70 miles from the nearest medical facility.

According to an article in the July 7th, 2017 edition of the Oregonian Newspaper, ‘Man killed in Crater Lake fall was organic farm volunteer’, the perch where Pineda had fallen from had a nearly 90-degree face, perhaps a quarter mile west of the intersection leading either to Rim Village to the east or a clockwise tour around the lake, to the west. The Oregonian article also stated that the perch near where Pineda’s body was discovered is a short walk – perhaps 50 to 100 feet – from a vehicle pullout.

Zarrabi added “The number one thing I would recommend is to reach out for support in any way which feels right, by reaching out to a friend, family member or counselor. It is also a way to help each other and that is very important. It is important to celebrate each other in a way that feels natural. Everybody is different. There is no right way, but you’re going to be experiencing changes and the one way to deal is with grief support.”