Laney student Robinson Sok, 18, is believed to have drowned in California’s Lake Shasta on Friday, Sept. 6, although his body has not been recovered. Sok’s death, the first this year at the lake, was followed two days later, by that of Ken Smith, a diver who was part of the search team looking for his body.
Initial reports indicated Sok died while attempting to assist a friend struggling to stay afloat in the water. Sok was said to have been with five friends on a houseboat near the McCloud River arm of the lake around 10:20 a.m. when a man jumped into the water, and began to struggle.
Another man, wearing a life preserver, reportedly jumped into the water to assist him, followed by Sok, who had no floatation device.
While the other two made it safely out of the water, Sok failed to resurface, so his companions stated they alerted authorities. The area, with depths of around 190 – 250 feet, were considered too deep for human divers, so underwater robotic units were used, according to Lt. Tom Campbell of the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department.
Some of the underwater units had to be sent from as far as San Francisco. A similar unit, closer by in Yuba City, was not available at the time.
One of the units became entangled underwater during the search, and Smith died after diving an estimated depth of 170 feet in an attempt to dislodge it. After he failed to surface, John Zufall, a member of the sheriff’s office dive team, attempted rescue but ascended too quickly and had to spend spent five hours in a decompression chamber, according to reports. Smith was transported to a nearby hospital in Redding, where he was pronounced dead.
The search for Sok has since been called off, and his family has found out it will cost them around $10,000 to hire a private company to continue recovery efforts.
They are appealing for help to raise the money through the fundraising website razoo.com, where his page can be found by searching his name.
On the page his family states, “We are not sure if he had drowned or it was a possible homicide.” Upon contacting Shasta County Sheriff’s Department Monday morning Sept. 23, their representative stated their Major Crimes Unit was handling the case. The representative indicated they would forward the inquiry to Sgt. Clegg, who has not returned comment.
In an email thread circulated amongst Laney staff, Theatre Arts Chair Michael Torres said of Sok “He was a promising student in class; Ra Ra was his name of choice, and his classmates adored him. I personally loved his energy in the space.”
Torres also said that his improvisation class on Monday Sept. 16 was dedicated to Sok’s memory; “This morning we play and discover for him.”
Looking at the fundraising appeal page, it is also clear that Sok was well loved; as of Sept. 25, a total of 57 donors have pledged $2532 toward the recovery of his body. Well over a dozen comments also convey a wealth of affection for a man who died before his time, and will clearly be missed.
One particularly compelling comment left on the fundraising page was by a person who identified them self as a classmate, Cortlyn Smith:
“Rest in peace ‘Ra Ra’; we miss your smile and good spirits. To his family; I am so sorry for your loss, my condolences. Robinson Sok; God has called for his angel to come home, you are gone but never forgotten.”
President of Laney College Elnora Webb stated, “I am certain that there are members of our Laney community who will be affected by this unfortunate news. We will be providing grief counseling to those who need it.” Webb said any students desiring counseling should contact the office of the Vice President of Instruction/Student Services.
On his Facebook page, Sok left a post earlier this year that many could take advice from; “Thinking back in time I miss a whole lot of people, especially from school. If I could go back in time, I would cherish each and every moment in my past; make the best of the moment and work for the future.”