Efe is remembered as a talented athlete. Photo: Ustenci family
Efe is remembered as a talented athlete. Photo: Ustenci family

The Berkeley Unified School District has announced a vigil and fundraiser for Efe Ustenci, who drowned earlier this week in Placer County while on a trip with friends.

The fundraiser to help pay for the 17-year-old’s burial costs has already raised more than $3,600 in approximately an hour. Its goal is $10,000.

A vigil at Berkeley High School has been planned for Saturday, June 25, from 5-6-30 p.m. in the courtyard. The school district had counselors on campus Friday to help offer support.

Wrote BHS Principal Sam Pasarow in the email about the vigil and fundraiser, sent Friday at 9 p.m.: “Please join us as we mourn the loss of Efejon Ustenci, and also celebrate his life.”

The following statement was posted on the fundraising page:

Efe Ustenci. Photo: Ana María Carbonell
Efe Ustenci. Photo: Ana María Carbonell

Efejon Ustenci was a student/athlete, an amazing spirit and a friend to many. He had just graduated from Berkeley High School and was planning to attend San Luis Obispo in the fall. This past week, he drowned while swimming with friends in Tahoe. They tried to revive him for more than 40 minutes, to no avail.

Efe’s passing has brought shockwaves of grief throughout the entire Berkeley community.

An only child, he is survived by his parents, who are in dire need of funds for a proper burial. While no amount of money can assuage the pain Efe’s parents are enduring, you can help relieve their financial stress by contributing towards their son’s burial and related costs.

Efe’s family will be grateful for any level of contribution.

Placer County sheriff’s office spokeswoman Dena Erwin said Thursday the 17-year-old, who lived in Berkeley, died in Long Lake. The lake is near Soda Springs, west of Lake Tahoe. She confirmed the teenager died from an apparent drowning and said his body has been recovered, but said no other information was immediately available because the coroner’s investigation is still underway.

Wrote Carolyn Gramstorff on Facebook: “Words can’t express. This was a boy who we met when he was just 4 years old. Who we watched grow from a pre-k to a teenager from our kitchen window. The boy who excitedly greeted welcomed Hope into the community when she was just a newborn baby. The kid who practiced his soccer skills by kicking his ball against our house. Efe was his parent’s only child, and their love for him was so deep. He was their center, their pride, their everything. My heart breaks for them and this unfathomable loss. I’m so sad for them. So sad.”

The Cal Poly men’s ultimate frisbee team also wrote online in honor of Efe, who had been headed there for college in the fall: “Although Efe never took the fields with us as a SLOCORE player, he will forever be a member of our ultimate family.”

Efe played in the Berkeley Rhinos rugby club, which went undefeated during its regular season this year. He was one of the highest scoring players on the team and was named rookie of the year this past season, according to one of his coaches. He has also been a member of the Coup, Berkeley High’s co-ed ultimate frisbee team.

Efe is remembered as a talented athlete. (attribution unknown)
Efe is remembered as a talented athlete. See more photos. (attribution unknown)

Recent Berkeley High grad, 17, dies in drowning (06.23.16)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...