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Crowd mourns teens drowning

Kyle Riedel, who drowned Aug. 9 on Deschutes River, was someone who lived his life 'with all the gusto you could possibly go for'
by: John Klicker, Friends of Kyle Riedel stand behind portraits of him at a candlelight vigil at Gresham High School’s football stadium Thursday, Aug. 10. Riedel, who would have been a sophomore at the high school this fall, drowned Wednesday, Aug. 9, in the Deschutes River.

Perhaps it was a case of life, and death, imitating art. This year Kyle Riedel, 15, took part in a church musical about why bad things happen to good people, in which teens deal with the death of a peer.

Now Kyle's peers are dealing with his death.

The Gresham High School student and vice president of his upcoming sophomore class drowned Wednesday, Aug. 9, in Sunriver after jumping off a rope swing hanging from a tree into the Deschutes River.

Kyle and five other teens from Gresham's Trinity Lutheran Church - including his 17-year-old brother, Gavin, another Gresham boy and three girls, all ages 14 to 17 - were playing in Sunriver for the week. His sister, Kristi, 19, wasn't with them.

While floating on rafts down the Deschutes River at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9, they saw others playing on a rope swing dangling from a tree along a calm stretch of river between Sunriver and Benham Falls.

Kyle, who wasn't wearing a lifejacket, was the last boy to swing out over the water and jump.

He hit the water face first, surfaced, slid under and disappeared, said Sgt. Marvin Combs, with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office.

Divers from Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue team found the boy's body at 7:30 p.m. in 8 feet of water about 50 feet downstream from the rope swing.

The following day, his parents, Koni and Fred Riedel, found themselves in the surreal position of sorting through family photos of their youngest son in preparation for a candlelight vigil at Gresham High School.

'He just went for everything with all the gusto you could possibly go for, and his pictures show that,' Koni said. 'He's always the one trying to be the center of attention.'

Trinity Lutheran pastor Glenn Chase agreed.

'Oh my gosh, he was out there,' Chase said with a laugh, recalling how Kyle wasn't content to play plain old Frisbee®, he had to play no-holds barred, anything-goes 'Killer Frisbee' - for points no less.

Although his life was cut short, friends recalled a charismatic, sweet, energetic young man who packed a lifetime of living into his 15 years.

'He never stopped,' said his shaken friend Thomas Ries, 15, during a Thursday night vigil in Kyle's honor. 'He was always happy, cracking jokes.'

When asked what he liked about Kyle, Ries answered simply. 'Everything. He was cool, down to earth. … He lived a good life.'

Then Ries bowed his head, tears stinging his eyes.

'I never lost a friend before,' Ries said, crying softly.

Kyle's death stunned his many friends. Within 24 hours of his death, 902 comments had been posted on his Myspace page.

One was from a pretty blond girl.

A friend told her that Kyle had an elaborate plan to ask her out when he returned home on Friday, Aug. 11. She would have said yes 'in a heartbeat,' the young woman wrote, signing off as 'your soon-to-be-girlfriend.'

Hundreds of students, parents, teachers and administrators gathered on the high school track around a photo collage, bouquets of flowers and a huge sheet of paper on which to write sentiments.

They stared at grade-school pictures of the boy with the million-dollar smile. Kyle hanging out with various groups of friends. Wearing a tux at a formal dance. Shooting hoops. Standing with two buddies, all three wearing John Deere hoodies. Playing a saxophone. Trying to look tough like the rap stars he admired. Stretching near hurdles at a track meet.

As a freshman, he went to state as an alternate for the 1,600-meter relay.

In a nearby field, a game of soccer was on. Kyle, whose e-mail address describes him as a sizzlin' soccer player, would have liked that, Chase noted.

As the evening came to a close, a group of Kyle's track buddies got together and ran a slow lap around the track.

In memory of Kyle.

See Wednesday's Outlook for information on services for Kyle Riedel.