Berkeley community members are mourning the drowning of a young man who graduated last Friday from Berkeley High School and died Wednesday while swimming in Long Lake in Placer County, school officials and the Placer County Sheriff's Office said.
Efejon Ustenci, 17, known affectionately by some as "Efe," was a star player on the Berkeley Rhinos Youth Rugby Club and was planning to attend California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
"My heart is so sad and heavy," Carolyn Gramstorff wrote on Facebook Thursday. "We learned today that our former young neighbor (when we lived on Ashby) died in a drowning accident yesterday."
Berkeley Rhinos Youth Rugby Club Assistant Varsity Coach Nate Muhler said, "We're really going to miss him."
Muhler worked directly with Ustenci, who played wing with the backs on the Rhinos.
"It's a big blow to our community," Berkeley Unified School District spokesman Mark Copeland said. "It really hits close to home."
Counseling services are available from noon to 2 p.m. today at Berkeley High School for anyone that feels they need help, Copeland said. People can go to the front desk and they'll be directed to a counselor.
Ustenci played for the Rhinos this year as part of an undefeated team that went to two playoff games. He was rookie of the year and one of the highest scorers on the team, according to Muhler.
"He was a great athlete," Muhler said. "He was a joy to coach."
Ustenci inspired his teammates to play better, according to Muhler.
"He was a sweet boy and was on his way to becoming a good solid loving man, beginning his journey at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo," Berkeley resident Ana Maria Carbonell said on Facebook. "He left too soon."
Placer County sheriff's spokesperson Dena Erwin could not provide any more information Friday morning. Long Lake is south of Interstate Highway 80 near Soda Springs and Truckee.