WALNUT CREEK (BCN) — Carolyn Alarie stopped short atop a hill in Walnut Creek’s Sutherland Open Space Wednesday night and gasped at the sea of flickering light before her as hikers passed through the darkness.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Alarie said.

Alarie was one in a crowd of mourners who gathered to honor two Las Lomas High School students who drowned Saturday while attempting to navigate a raft in storm-swollen waters.

Matthew Miller, 16, and Gavin Powell, 17, who were juniors at Las Lomas High School, told their families they were going rafting in a nearby aqueduct or creek around 2 p.m. Saturday.

Their bodies were found Sunday morning in the Walnut Creek waterway, Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jimmy Lee said.

Alarie, a friend of the Powell family, was one of hundreds of mourners—a collection of parents, teachers, neighbors and students—who attended Wednesday night’s vigil.

“As a community, it’s just so sad,” neighbor Elena Hernandez said. “We’re here to show our support.”

The weather cooperated with the event as the tight-knit community gathered on a clear, rainless night.

“It’s heaven back here; somebody made it nice for us tonight,” Alarie said.

Hundreds of the boys’ classmates in attendance burst into periodic cheers of encouragement throughout the hike and led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace” at the walk’s end.

“I think it signifies how united our school is and how all of us are always there for each other,” Las Lomas High School sophomore Linnea Wikander said.

The outpouring of support started almost immediately on Facebook, where a page was created for friends, family and community members to express their grief.

“We will fill the night sky with hundreds of candles of light,” one mourner posted. “The boys will look down and see us … and smile.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

Comments (3)
  1. gwen says:

    I’m so sorry for their families loss. Clearly, they were unfamiliar with the dangers of fast running water. Water doesn’t have to be deep to kill.

  2. Armando Morales says:

    I had met Gavin , he was a friend of my son Devon , it felt as I had lost a son also , it is a awful feeling , Feel very baddly for the great loving parents.

  3. gay Pierre says:

    God bless both the Miller and the Powell families. I have you in my prayers.

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