Thursday, June 26, 2008

23-year-old drowns after drinking with friends

BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

A drowning accident claimed the life of Kevin Whitney earlier this week at an apartment complex near Santa Barbara City College. He was 23.
Everyone close to Whitney lived for his energy.
From the glory days playing quarterback for the Petaluma High School football team to his years in Santa Barbara taking paramedic and firefighting courses, the 23-year-old seemed to exude joy.

Those who knew him best called him a stellar athlete, a gregarious friend to all, and a leader.
“If he could put a smile on somebody else’s face and make them laugh, I think that was the strongest point about him — that’s what he wanted,” said Chris Robfogel, a close friend.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, June 22, Whitney swam away from a group of people in the shallow end of a pool at a Santa Barbara apartment complex after drinking with friends.
When he was pulled from the bottom 10 minutes later, he was unresponsive, authorities said, and died Monday afternoon at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
For a close-knit group of friends who played football with him in high school, life will never be the same.
“Kevin was a best friend,” said Jon Standring, who moved to Santa Barbara with him after graduating from high school in Petaluma, Calif.
“I did everything with the guy,” he added. “He can never be replaced.”
Chosen by his fellow teammates as the captain of the football team in high school and playing all four years as a quarterback despite standing only 5-foot-8, Whitney earned a reputation as an outstanding athlete with equally outstanding character off the field.
“He really was the captain of all our lives, not just the football team,” Robfogel said. “He led us all and he’s going to continue to do that the rest of our lives.”
After graduating from high school in 2003, Whitney moved to Santa Barbara and began taking general education courses at Santa Barbara City College.
After a year and a half, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, a firefighter who had an extremely close relationship with his son.
“He always wanted to make his father proud,” Standring said.
Whitney finished an emergency medical technician program at the top of his class and earned acceptance to the Oxnard College Fire Academy.
Although he broke his ankle six weeks into the eight-week program and had to start all over, he did so unrelentingly.
“It was one of the best days of my life,” Standring said, describing Whitney’s graduation from the academy.
In recent weeks, he had been finishing up a few final classes needed for his associate’s degree in fire science and planned to move back home to Petaluma to attend paramedic school.
He even figured on living with his dad for a while, said Brett Battenberg, another close friend who played football with Whitney and remembered the special bond he had with his father.
“I remember his dad being out there when we were in Pop Warner, coaching us when we were kids,” Battenberg said.
The foursome ¬— Whitney, Brattenberg, Robfogel and Standring — made up a group known as the “Four Horsemen,” a nickname given by their class principal at Petaluma High School that just stuck through the years.
Although typically the most energetic of the bunch, Whitney also had a grounded personality that seemed to create genuine friendship with everyone he met.
“He had a level-headedness of being able to put himself in other people’s shoes,” Brattenberg said.
During a class trip to Spain, around the age of 16, Robfogel decided to get a tattoo. Whitney was the ever-present voice of reason, asking if Robfogel was sure he wanted to have it for the rest of his life even as Standring urged him on.
“He was always the most grounded of us all,” Robfogel said.
And even after the four split up after graduating high school, with Brattenberg heading to Santa Monica and Robfogel to San Diego, they maintained their closeness, visiting as often as they could.
Last weekend, all four reunited for the first time in nearly a year in Santa Barbara to celebrate Standring’s graduation.
“I sure am glad that we go to do that,” Robfogel said.
Friends and family will gather in Petaluma on Monday for visitation before funeral services are held on Tuesday.
Shelley Beaumonte, a high school classmate who attended UC Santa Barbara and kept in touch with Whitney throughout the years said she plans to attend the service.
“It’s going to be upsetting,” she said. “I feel like it’s going to be a high school reunion too soon.”

6 comments:

Nina said...

Kevin has touched so many lives at his very young age. I am sure we all have special memories of Kevin that will last for the rest of our lives. I know I won't forget mine. May god bless Kevin, his family & wonderful friends.

~Nina Alejos

Jessica and Leila said...

Kevin,
The strong man I knew that would be there night and day when I needed him. From your sweet talks to a helping hand in the community, you will always be remembered by us!
When I had to tell Leila that daddy had an accident, she still doesn't understand. I will always engrave in her heart what a wonderful man you were and to never forget her dad! Maybe someday I will take her by to meet the grandparents she never got to know. We miss you

Doug Spencer said...

I worked with Kevin’s father, Brain, at Novato Fire for many years. Brian often spoke fondly of his children, and we occasionally shared stories of our kids. As a father, I can immediately appreciate the weight of this stunning tragedy and I’m deeply saddened by the news.

May Kevin rest in peace, and may all his family and friends find comfort in his memory.

Jon Standring said...

Please disregard the comment above left by Jessica. His family and friends know that this information is completly FALSE!

Mallory said...

Kevin, you will be missed more than you know. I wish you didn't have to be. Your life was cut short but you lived well and loved even more. You will always be in my thoughts. And my heart goes out to your family, and boys. May you rest in peace Kevin.

Jillian Idiart said...

My heart goes out to Kevin's family and friends! My fond memories of Kevin will always be cherished.. Rest in peace Kevin.