Boy who drowned at South Yuba River described as ‘a shooting star’ |

Boy who drowned at South Yuba River described as ‘a shooting star’

Photo courtesy Shannon O'Shea

A young boy who drowned Saturday afternoon in the South Yuba River was described by his mother as a “shooting star” and a very special human being.

“I want people to understand his essence,” said Shannon O’Shea of her son, Keegan Carovich. “He wasn’t a standard 12-year-old boy.”

O’Shea described Keegan, who was set to start seventh grade at Seven Hills Middle School in Nevada City next year, as a “big ball of light.”

“Not one person disliked him,” she said. “He was a peacekeeper. He wanted everyone to get along.”

“I really consider (Keegan) a gift from God that was shared with me, but it was his time to go back.  
-Shannon O’Shea, Keegan’s mother

Keegan’s teachers often placed him in the middle of the troublemakers, O’Shea said, so that he could neutralize any potential discord.

“He was kind, loving, compassionate,” O’Shea said. “He was an old soul.”

Keegan was swimming at the river downstream of the Highway 49 bridge with Tessa, his 14-year-old sister; Michael Lopin, his best friend since kindergarten; and Lopin’s father, Greg.

He apparently got caught in an undercurrent in some rapids and was underwater for approximately seven minutes before he could be pulled free.

CPR was in progress when first responders arrived at the scene, according to North San Juan Fire spokesman Christoffer Montelius.

The “massive rescue effort” proved unsuccessful, as North San Juan Fire and Consolidated firefighters, as well as personnel from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies and park rangers all worked together.

“Despite all of our best efforts, the boy’s life could not be saved,” Montelius said.

There have been several fatalities near that section of the river, most recently in 2010 when Robert Welch, 20, of Auburn, was trapped in the suction of a natural rock tunnel littered with logs and debris, just upstream from the bridge.

O’Shea said on Sunday that she wanted to thank everyone at the river who assisted in the rescue effort and who offered prayers for Keegan.

Before he left for the river Saturday, O’Shea said, Keegan told her he needed a “mama hug” and climbed into her lap before playing her a “beautiful song” about polar bears.

“He always said I love you,” she said of her son, whom she characterized as sensitive and artistic.

“He considered himself a Buddhist.”

O’Shea said Keegan was a good swimmer who loved the river and fishing.

“He caught his first fish a few months ago,” she said, recalling his excitement. “He was so proud of himself.”

O’Shea said she did not have a date yet for a memorial service but that one was being planned.

Family friend Marianne Sullivan is setting up a memorial fund with Bank of America in Grass Valley to help O’Shea. For more information, contact Sullivan at 530-575-9386.

“I really consider (Keegan) a gift from God that was shared with me, but it was his time to go back,” O’Shea said.

“I think of him as a shooting star … he touched so many people’s lives in such a short time.”

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, e-mail or call 530-477-4229.

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