Exeter mourns the loss of high school senior

Brandon Mendez, 18, fell to his death hiking just weeks before he was set to graduate from Exeter Unified High School

EXETER – Exeter high school graduates participated in a very different graduation ceremony over the weekend. Unfortunately, one thing was eerily familiar, the loss of a classmate whose life ended just as it was to begin adulthood.

Brandon Mendez, 18, was one of the 225 students scheduled to graduate this month before his life was tragically cut short. Just after 10 p.m. on May 15, Mendez was hiking with friends when he fell down a 50-foot ravine in Three Rivers. Several attempts were made to lift him out of the ravine by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue and California Highway Patrol before he was brought up to a clearing by the Search and Rescue team at Naval Air Station Lemoore. From there he was airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno where he died from his injuries just after 1:45 a.m. early Saturday morning.

Exeter Unified High School teacher Shelly Lyons called the loss heartbreaking. She described Mendez as a “young man who loved life” and said Mendez volunteered to take flowers to the Exeter Manor House and visit with local senior citizens. She said the high school senior was her “right hand helper in class,” always asking how she was doing.

“Brandon was a polite, respectful, and humorous young man who will be missed greatly,” Lyons posted on Facebook. “Sending prayers to his family and loved ones.”

Larry Micari, an Exeter resident and a candidate for District 1 supervisor in November, extended his condolences to Mendez’s parents, Rafael and Elizabeth, on the loss of their wonderful son who was a close friend of Micari’s dauther Brooklyn.

“I was honored that Brandon volunteered to be a part of our campaign and in the time that I got to know him, he was truly a remarkable individual and one of the best young men I’ve ever met,” Micari posted on his Facebook page.

Zoe Tenbroeck starting a GoFundMe page to help the Mendez family pay for funeral expenses once they are able to gather together. A private family service was held last week but a memorial service will be held at a future date. Arrangements are under the direction of Evans Miller Guinn Chapel in Exeter.

The page, www.gofundme.com/f/qwvwx-brandon-mendez, has a goal of raising $15,000 and had already raised more than $13,500 as of press time.

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