Deceased Estacada youth was 'very loving and very giving'
When River Baker was around 11 years old, his grandfather took him to a soccer game. But rather than focusing on his longtime favorite sport, River had something else on his mind.
"He was talking about the extra toys he didn't play with and wanted to donate them to kids who didn't have anything," his grandfather Stan Maier recalled. "Even as he got older, he thought like that. . .He cared about people and their feelings."
River, a 17 year old who attended Estacada High School and Summit Learning Charter, was hit and killed by a train on Saturday, Nov. 2, in Troutdale. Around 6 p.m., Multnomah County Sheriff's deputies were called out to the site of the incident at the Union Pacific Railroad tracks immediately north of the Historic Columbia River Highway. He was declared dead at the scene.
The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office told the Estacada News that the report is still open, and River's family declined to discuss the specifics of the incident.
"The truth is still coming to us, and we're still processing," said Rebecca Porter, River's aunt.
When the news of River's death was posted on the Estacada School District and Estacada Neighborhood Watch Facebook pages, there was an outpouring of support. Many comments noted that River would be remembered for his kindness and sincerity.
On Facebook, the Estacada School District described River as "a wonderful student, athlete, and friend that will be missed by so many."
Support for a vigil on Sunday, Nov. 3, honoring River grew quickly, and family members estimated that between 50-75 people attended the event with just a half hour's notice.
Another vigil is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today, Nov. 7, at Estacada High School, 355 N.E. Sixth Ave.
"My son loved life and everyone in it. He was so excited for his future. We will all be changed from the horrific tragedy," River's father, Jason Baker, wrote on the Facebook page for the event.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at Estacada First Baptist Church, 29101 S.E. Eagle Creek.
On Monday, Nov. 4, and Tuesday, Nov. 5, the Estacada School District's Crisis Response team met with students. Since then, one-on-one meetings with the school's counselors have been available.
School leaders noted that that atmosphere has been somber, but praised the students for their strength.
"It's hard on the staff who have known (River) since he was young, and the kids who grew up with him. It's had a big impact on the community," said Tami Yeager, principal's secretary at Estacada High School.
Family members noted that River, a lifelong Estacada resident, was a positive presence for many in his life.
"Anybody that met him liked him," Jason said.
"He had a contagious laugh and a beautiful smile. He lit up a room," added River's aunt Kelly Irwin. "He never left a family gathering without hugging everyone, and telling everyone he loved them."
River's mother, Jeri Sanchez-Ramirez, noted that her son was "a shy, quiet kid, but very loving and very giving."
River spent "countless, millions of hours on the soccer field." He had played the sport since kindergarten and participated on the Estacada High School team and Thelo club team.
River inherited a love of cars from his dad and spent this past summer working at Jiffy Lube in Sandy. Family members noted that he saved earnings to purchase his first car, a Honda Civic.
He also enjoyed photography, particularly in nature, and shared the pictures he took via Instagram.
River's 18th birthday would have been Nov. 26. His family noted that he was looking forward to his future and was potentially interested in joining the U.S. Navy.
A GoFundMe for River's memorial service is available at
gofundme.com/f/memorial-fund-for-river-baker-and-family. Within a day of the fund's creation, community members had donated more than $10,000 in River's memory.
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