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Friends gathered at Campus Point Tuesday Sept. 6 to mourn the death and commemorate the life of UCSB student Mark Andrew Romasanta, II.
The 22 year-old Santa Barbara native was last seen on the 6600 block of Del Playa Drive at 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 28 and was reported missing by his family after failing to attend his father’s birthday celebration. His body was discovered in the ocean near Campus Point the next day and the cause of death has yet to be determined.
Romasanta’s longtime friend Jessica Soler, a third-year sociology major, said she knew the fourth-year aquatic biology major to be humble and compassionate with a genuine, high-spirited character.
“[Mark]’s opinionated and doesn’t back down — he’d let you know his side of it,” Soler said. “He would literally take the shirt off his back and give it to you. He’s the first guy you wanted to call when something good happened to you.”
According to Soler, there was nothing out of the ordinary in the events leading up to Romasanta’s disappearance, which added to his friends’ and family’s shock. Although results of the toxicology report have not yet been released, Soler said Romasanta’s friends agreed that he was not in a mental or physical state that would have led him to mistakenly walk over the edge of a bluff.
“When he left that party, he was sober as a bell,” Soler said. “So he walked home, and in that brief seven minutes it takes to get from Del Playa to my house, something happened. He’s SCUBA certified, an avid surfer, born and raised in Santa Barbara — people like that are aware of the ocean. I don’t think Mark put himself on Campus Point.”
Soler said she later heard of an altercation at the corner of Camino del Sur and Del Playa Drive in which three men teamed up to attack one; she felt that this type of scenario could have led to Romasanta’s death.
Fifth-year aquatic biology major Chris Kowitz, a friend of Romasanta’s who shared Soler’s sentiments on his amiable nature, said the event also speaks to a dark trend in the Isla Vista community.
“I knew Mark as a really kind, gentle person,” Kowitz said. “My biggest problem is that all year we’ve had kids die, but this is the first time for me that it was someone I knew — I really knew him. It makes me hope that this year, students look out for each other and no one else has to die.”
Over 50 people attended last week’s service, which featured a memorial constructed from bamboo, a surfboard, wreaths and flowers to represent the 22-year-old’s grounded outlook on life. The group then paddled out on surfboards, verbally paid tribute to Romasanta and placed bottles filled with written memories and words of kindness in the ocean past the break point.
More than 30 of Romasanta’s family and community members posted fliers around Isla Vista immediately following his disappearance. Friend and UCSB graduate Danny Kowitz attributes Romansanta’s family’s decision to launch a search as the direct result of “the sixth sense of a mom, knowing her son is in trouble.”
Although his body was discovered promptly after the fliers’ distribution, Soler said the mystery continues to burden Romasanta’s loved ones.
“Every now and again, [in the days following], you would stumble upon his face on another flier, pull it down and think, ‘Where are you? Why aren’t you here?’” Soler said. “I want people who know something to say something, and if you don’t know anything, ask about it. He was one of our own, our peer, a UCSB student. And he’s not here.”
A candlelight vigil with a paddle-out will be held at midnight on the first day of school, Thursday, Sept. 22, at the cross on the point of Sands Beach to commemorate Romasanta’s life. Though the event’s details are not yet finalized, Kowtiz said a Facebook group will be created to provide further information.