Carlos Sebastián Quizhpi Valdivieso
Carlos Sebastián Quizhpi Valdivieso
In the span of a month, two young members of St. Andrew Parish in Northeast Portland have drowned.

Carlos Sebastián Quizhpi Valdivieso, 14, was in Long Beach, Washington, May 31 when a rip current swept him away from shore. Jose Pascual, part of the parish’s Mayan choir, disappeared while swimming in the Sandy River June 29. The 21-year-old’s body was found July 3.

“To lose two young members like this is very hard,” said Father Dave Zegar, pastor of St. Andrew.

Carlos Sebastián, known as “Sebi,” had family in Oregon and Ecuador. Local family said he’d gently escorted a younger child back to her mother just moments before he drowned. The girl’s mother called him an “angel” for ensuring her daughter’s safety.

“An aspiring film producer and hard-working high school student, Sebi loved skateboarding, his family and cracking non-stop jokes,” wrote family members on a GoFundMe page. “His mother worked tirelessly for the last ten years for Sebastian’s dual citizenship and the chance for a higher education.”

St. Andrew held a memorial Mass for Sebi June 30, and it was livestreamed for family in Ecuador.

The Gospel reading, from Mark, described when Jesus took the children in his arms, placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. Sebi’s mother, Lourdes Valdiviezo, “shared that this reading is what’s helped her the most,” said Father Zegar. “It’s given her the most comfort.”

Sebi’s family is preparing to return to Ecuador for a larger Mass and celebration of life with extended family. Though the body has not been found, his most precious items will be buried in a family plot.

When Pascual, a native of Guatemala, disappeared, multiple agencies responded to help with the search. Rescue swimmers reported no visibility in the river and dangerous currents caused by glacial runoff on Mount Hood, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. Crews were only able to search by helicopter and raft. The search turned into a recovery effort June 30 due to the time elapsed and river conditions.

The day his body was found, family member Marisela Lemar updated a GoFundMe page she created. “I want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts that have donated and prayed for us,” she said. “His body was discovered this afternoon and was able to give closure to his loved ones and now we can get him back home to parents in Guatemala.”

Father Zegar has been praying a novena with the family following Pascual’s death and additional memorial plans are being discussed.

“He was a quiet man who loved playing in the choir,” said Father Zegar, recalling how he’d spend hours preparing for each Mass. “The music was so meaningful to him.”

The priest said the parish community has wrapped both families in love and prayer, and he’s trying to help them process their grief as best he can.

“Sometimes people see things like this as God’s punishment,” he said. “No, this is not a punishment or God’s plan but an accident.”

Public officials remind beachgoers to be aware of their surroundings, including strong waves, rip currents and cold water temperatures. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office encourages everyone recreating on or near rivers this summer to have a life jacket. With significant glacial runoff from Mount Hood, the depths and currents in the Sandy River, a tributary of the Columbia River, will continue to cause dangerous conditions.