Classmates at Lakeside High School were invited to write condolences to the family of Casey Burt, the 17-year-old who drowned in an Alaska river after a fishing boat capsized on Sunday.
The school was open Thursday morning, one day after Alaska troopers recovered Burt’s body following a search effort by other fishermen, friends and family members.
Brian Talbott, superintendent for the Nine Mile Falls school district, said the decision to open the school was made to give those mourning Burt’s death a place to console one another. He estimated that 100 to 150 people came to commemorate Burt at the school by Thursday afternoon.
“There has been a lot of pain, and waiting, and wondering, and praying, and hoping,” Talbott said.
Friends described Burt as a good friend, brimming with kindness and laughter.
Another fisherman, Charles Anthony Voss, 38, of Alaska, also drowned.
Two other men from Eastern Washington, including Earnest Pierce, 47, of Nine Mile Falls and Brandon Michael Park, 24, of West Richland, were able to climb atop the overturned boat until they were rescued.
Burt and Voss attempted to swim to shore. The Coast Guard reported 25-mph winds and rough waters with 4-foot waves where the Ugashik River empties into Bristol Bay on the north side of the Alaskan Peninsula near Pilot Point.
The area is home to commercial salmon fishing.
None of the occupants was wearing a life vest, and other fishermen were choosing not to go out because of the weather at the time, said Tim DeSpain, spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers.
In addition to playing soccer for the school, Burt’s classmates said he had always been passionate about fishing.
“He was such an amazing kid and he was always so happy, and always there for everyone,” said Haley McCarthy, a student at Lakeside.
A friend of Burt’s, William Scartozzi, said Burt also was interested in fantasy football, skateboarding and skiing.
The last time Scartozzi spoke to Burt was right before school let out for summer. He planned to see him again in July.
“He was just hilarious; he was always outgoing,” Scartozzi said. “He was always wanting to put a smile on someone’s face.”