Father feels grateful for lost son, community

Courtesy of Aiazzi family/Wallace photography Keegan Aiazzi

Courtesy of Aiazzi family/Wallace photography Keegan Aiazzi

For his 17th birthday, Keegan Aiazzi's father, Jason, signed the paperwork for his son to get a tattoo on his right arm.

When Keegan held his arm in one direction, the tattoo read "Family." When he flipped it over, it read, "Forever."

"Family was the most important thing for him and he would have done anything for any of his family. Stephen was family to him and to us," said Aiazzi.

On Saturday Keegan and his best friend Stephen Anderson, 16, were on the second day of their first scuba diving trip to Monterey Bay when something went horribly wrong.

After the boys failed to surface with their group, rescuers were called. Some two hours later, divers discovered the boys' bodies near one another on the ocean floor, Monterey County Sheriff's Detective Kevin Gardepie said. Rescue efforts were in vain. The best friends, both Carson High School juniors, were pronounced dead at the hospital.

Stephen's father, Chris Anderson, said Tuesday that the last thing he'd told the two before they boarded a charter boat to go diving with classmates was, "Now you guys stick together."

In the end, he noted, they did as they were told.

"They were dive buddies and they were best friends," said Jason Aiazzi. "The odd thing is they had parking spots right next to each other at school and they both had the same middle name - James."

They also both played on the Carson High football team together and first met as little boys in Pop Warner football. But their friendship blossomed in high school.

The loss has hit the student body hard. The boys' parking spots are now a memorial to them. Classmates climbed C Hill to mark it with a "K" and an "S."

A memorial gathering tonight at the high school from 7-10 p.m. was organized by the student body.

That show of love for his only son is carrying Jason Aiazzi through the darkest days of his life, he said.

"That's what's actually getting us through this," he said. "It's unbelievable that Keegan and Stephen had affected others' lives in such a positive way."

On Monday, Jason and his wife Paula went to the high school to see the memorial created in the school parking lot. Jason said he was just going to drive by, but when he saw all the children grieving there, he had to stop.

"Then all the kids started telling us stories about how funny Keegan and Stephen were together. They got us to smile and laugh that day," he said.

Through the stories from Keegan's friends, Jason Aiazzi said he is realizing what a good man his son was turning out to be. One such story came from a girl who said she didn't even know Keegan, but when he saw three boys picking on her, he intervened, said Jason Aiazzi.

"It makes me feel so good as a parent, that I had instilled that in him," he said. "They were both amazing young men."

On Saturday morning at 10 a.m. a funeral service is set for Stephen at the Church of Latter-day Saints on Saliman Road next to the high school.

Afterward at noon there will be a celebration of life for Keegan in the high school auditorium.

A memorial fund also has been set up in each boys' names.

Donations to the Stephen Anderson Memorial Fund can be made at Bank of America branch. The families still are working out the details on how the funds will be distributed.

Donations to the Keegan James Aiazzi Memorial Fund can be made at any U.S. Bank branch.

Chris Anderson said Stephen's will benefit "in some way or shape" a student at Carson High School.

Jason Aiazzi said Keegan's will go toward the Carson High School football program and animal rescue.

"I'm very, very proud of Keegan. Both his mother and I are very, very proud," Jason Aiazzi said. "We were blessed to have a son like him."

The accident is under investigation by the Monterey County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Coast Guard.


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