Teen’s death hits Lynnwood students, staff hard

VERLOT — The teen who died after a fall at Mount Pilchuck Saturday was well-liked by his teachers and classmates at Lynnwood High School.

Lord Cedric Cunanan — Cedric to his friends — was 10 days shy of finishing his freshman year when a weekend outing took a tragic turn. Cedric, 15, had been scaling a rock wall when he plummeted about 30 feet onto a snow field Saturday afternoon.

Extra counselors were on hand Monday at Lynnwood High as well as Alderwood Middle School, which Cedric attended a year ago. Dozens of students at both schools wore red — his favorite color.

“This is a tragedy beyond words and many are reeling as they process the news,” Edmonds School District spokeswoman DJ Jakala said. “Our condolences go out to his family and all who knew him.”

It was a hard day for students on both campuses.

“He just made everybody feel valued and important,” said his eighth-grade English teacher, Rebecca Biddick. “He had a million friends. … He was always so enthusiastic about others’ success.”

Cedric, who was originally from the Philippines, had been hiking the popular Lake 22 trail with a group that included his friends and brother.

They had reached the lake and decided to explore the area, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.

By Monday, young people had filled Cedric’s social-media pages with personal messages of loss. On Facebook, he was described as a low-key friend, funny and outgoing. He liked to hang out and play basketball at North Lynnwood Park, also known as “Dragon Park.”

“He was the nicest person, always had your back,” one person wrote.

Biddick had Cedric in second-period English at Alderwood Middle School last year. Cedric was a new student who quickly made friends, joined the break-dancing club and showed a deep interest in social issues.

“He was the kind of kid who invited everyone into his life,” she said. “He just embraced everyone — the most non-judgmental kid I had ever seen.”

On Sunday, Biddick heard on Facebook from more than half Cedric’s former classmates. On Monday, nine high-school freshmen returned to room 20 at Alderwood Middle School to spend time with Biddick and share memories. All wore red.

Cedric himself had paid Biddick a visit recently to tell her he’d passed an end-of-course state exam and to thank his former teacher for helping him along the way.

Other teachers at both schools also had fond memories.

“Those who knew Lord Cedric knew him as loyal and devoted to his family and friends,” faculty from the schools wrote in a letter sent to parents Monday.

A sheriff’s office helicopter and Everett Mountain Rescue volunteers were dispatched to Lake 22 on Saturday evening. SnoHawk1 left Taylor’s Landing near Snohomish around 8:30 p.m. with about one hour of daylight to search.

The helicopter crew flew around the area three times before spotting two people. They were off the trail on the south side of the lake pointing up toward the snow line. The teen had been moved down the slope, and his location had been marked with a stick and a blue bandana.

Rescuers confirmed that the teen had died.

As darkness approached, the decision was made to return early Sunday morning rather than risk carrying him down the steep trail at night. He was flown to a landing zone at the Verlot Ranger Station early Sunday morning.

Lake 22 has long been a popular trail off the Mountain Loop Highway east of Granite Falls. It takes hikers through old-growth forest to a mountain lake.

It also can be dangerous.

In January 2008, a Mukilteo girl, 13, died in an avalanche while hiking with friends and an adult. Two other teens were able to dig their way out.

At this time of year, people need to be aware of fast-changing conditions, said Oyvind Henningsen, coordinator for the Snohomish County Search and Rescue helicopter rescue team.

People should be aware of weak snow bridges and the potential for slippery rocks and trails.

Popular trails in the Mount Pilchuck area can stay snowy even as summer starts in the lowlands, said Chris Moriarty, an Everett Mountain Rescue volunteer. Hikers should bring proper footwear and keep an eye on the time and the weather, he said.

Snow that is soft under the morning sun can quickly turn icy and slippery in the shade, he said.

Snow also can make it more difficult to follow the trail, and volunteers plan to put up some additional signs on the Mount Pilchuck summit trail to help those who have wandered.

“It’s difficult to give an exact date on when it will melt out, but it can stay snowed in for quite some time,” he said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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