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Community pulls together after drownings

When a tragedy the likes of the Aug. 25 drowning of four family members at Hagg Lake hits, the loss reaches across the community.Michael Garcia-Ixtacua and Jeremy Scholl

Three generations of the Garcia family of Hillsboro — Jova Ixtacua-Castano, 42; her son, Michael Garcia-Ixtacua, 13; her daughter, Gabriela Garcia-Ixtacua, 25; and Gabriela’s son, Jeremy Scholl, 3 — all drowned together during an outing to the Sain Creek Picnic Area. None of the drowning victims were wearing life jackets.

Fewer than 24 hours after the four were identified, memorial funds were set up and Hillsboro School District officials had counselors on hand to help students at Evergreen Middle School, where Michael attended seventh grade last year.Gabriela Ixtacua-Castano

Friends and neighbors described the Garcia family as close-knit and friendly.

“They were very friendly, very family-based,” said Belinda Graham, a neighbor who lives in the same neighborhood as the Garcia family in northeast Hillsboro. Graham said the family has lived on the same street for about 15 years. Family members always waved and greeted neighbors as they passed by, she said.Jova Garcia-Ixtacua

Survivors include Jova’s husband, Ruperto Garcia, and the couple’s daughter, Maria.

“They were a fabulous family. Hard working. They were living the American dream,” said Tony Lawson, a family friend who knows Ruperto Garcia through work.

Lawson helped the family set up the Garcia Memorial Fund at Wells Fargo and also set up an online account through GiveForward.com to help with funeral and burial expenses.

“My understanding is the family is going to handle things privately,” through St. Matthew Catholic Church in Hillsboro, Lawson said of memorial arrangements.

As with anyone who has suffered a traumatic loss, “You’re in shock, devastated,” Lawson said. “But there are moments when you carry on.”

Lawson was at the Garcia home Wednesday evening, Aug. 27, after the tragedy and said Ruperto Garcia and his surviving daughter, Maria, had “family and friends coming in and out.”

As of Wednesday, online fundraising has raised $2,615. Lawson said he set a goal of $20,000, based on estimated expenses of funeral and burial for the four family members.

“This terrible tragedy has been visited upon this poor family and the heartbreak and loss is unimaginable. Unfortunately, the financial impact will be the second tragedy visited upon this family. The expense arising from this will be substantial,” the GiveForward web page reads.

In a statement released by the family last week, the Garcia family was described as close and hard working.

The statement described Jova as “the cornerstone of the family. Always doing everything for her family. Such a wonderful sense of humor, and she was really passionate about the community in Hillsboro.”

By Thursday, Aug. 28, a makeshift memorial to the four victims at the Sain Creek Picnic Area was beginning to collect items.

Two bouquets of flowers and several “Love Rocks” sat on a table with a blue cloth placed lakeside. A sign said, simply, “In Remembrance — En Recuerdo.”

The typically busy area was quiet two days after the lake reopened to visitors. It was closed Tuesday, Aug. 26, while dive teams searched for the bodies of the three missing family members.

A handful of people were in the water that day, and two more were fishing from the shore.

Robbie Pock of Forest Grove brought her family for a visit to Sain Creek Thursday.

“Be aware it might drop off quickly, so go slowly,” she told her daughter, who was wearing a life jacket while wading just offshore.

“We brought a bouquet of flowers,” Pock said. “We’re hoping to bring a little joy today.”

Rian Petrick, principal of Evergreen Middle School, said the district’s flight team was at the school on Wednesday, Aug. 27, available for students who wanted to come in and talk about the tragedy.

“We had 20 students and some adults come in,” Petrick said. “It was a good day yesterday giving them an opportunity to talk and reminisce with each other about Michael.”

Petrick said Evergreen staff has also taken a collection and is donating to the family, as well as sending along cards and posters students and staff have signed.

Flight team members were also available to students Tuesday and Wednesday as the school year began.

“We anticipate a greater need Wednesday [Sept. 3],” when eighth-graders, students in Michael’s class, return to school, said school district flight team coordinator Scott Schinderle.

Schinderle explained that the flight team is a group of care coordinators and counselors from around the district trained to provide grief support and counseling to students and staff in the case of a death of a student or staff member.

“It’s a tough job, and they do it very well and with compassion,” Schinderle said.

Typically, the flight team sets up at the affected school, where there is a support room for students and one for staff.

Everyone grieves and processes differently, Schinderle explained.

“Some like to talk one-on-one, some like to just sit and draw or write,” he said.

At Evergreen, students made bracelets, cards and wrote letters. Schinderle said any cards made or stories about Michael that students shared will be provided to the family.

“It’s a proven way to begin the healing process,” Schinderle said.