An entire community is in mourning after the death of 14-year-old Ryan Payne. Payne died May 28 after nearly drowning at Magnuson Park in Lake Washington on Memorial Day.
The Kenmore Middle School (KMS) student was rushed to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition after being trapped underwater for nearly 10 minutes. Bystanders pulled the teen onto a floating dock about 100 feet from shore, according to firefighters, who said an off-duty firefighter, nurse and doctor all worked to help the teen.
His death has been confirmed as an accident by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Stephen Fisher, a longtime friend and neighbor to Payne and his family, said “anybody who ever met him, would remember him.”
“He had so much energy and his eyes just sparkled,” he said. “Everything he did was always to help and inspire others.”
Fisher’s son is close friends with Payne’s sister, Rachael. Fisher said he has known Payne and his family since before Payne began kindergarten. Payne’s mother, Heather Moran, served in the U.S. Army for 30 years and is now in the Army Reserves. Fisher said when she was deployed, he and other close friends and neighbors would support Moran, Payne’s father, Mike, and Ryan and Rachael.
“We all stepped in. We love these kids,” Fisher said.
On May 28, before Payne’s death was announced, students from KMS as well as his former elementary school wrote cards and letters wishing Payne to get better soon.
“We got this mass of cards from all these kids who knew him,” Fisher said. “Every card said prayers and ‘hope you pull through,’ but the thing that was in nearly every single card was a story of how they remembered Ryan.”
Fisher said several of the cards told a story of how the student author knew Payne.
“So many of them said something like, ‘You don’t remember me, but I remember you,’ and ‘I remember when you helped me to the nurse’s office after I scraped my knee on the playground,’” he said. “That’s the kind of person Ryan was. He was like a savior, always protecting others and looking out for them…He was that with every breath he took.”
Payne was going to enter ninth grade at Inglemoor High School in the fall. As an avid sports player, he played on his soccer team with Northshore Youth Soccer Association, Kenmore Elementary School, KMS, North Lake Little League and the Vikings Junior Football.
“He was so athletic…everyone thought he was the star of the team,” Fisher said.
Fisher said his Viking Junior Football number, 22, will be retired for the next football season at Inglemoor High School to honor Payne.
Bryan Stutz, KMS’s principal, sent families an email Tuesday afternoon.
“Ryan’s impact continues to be felt deep and wide throughout our District. Here at Kenmore Middle, he was finishing eighth grade. He brought an exuberant presence that seemed to attract friends new and old. Ryan’s desire to help others was evident on a daily basis, and our school community was better because of it,” he wrote.
Stutz said Payne hoped to try out for football with a cadre of friends who he’d played with for years.
“Ryan was engaged and full of life. What everyone is feeling today is a testimony to who he was as a student, friend, team member and son,” he wrote. “We are all terribly saddened by the sudden loss of Ryan.”
NSD Superintendent, Dr. Michelle Reid, also issued families a letter regarding Payne’s passing.
“I invite you to join me in keeping Ryan’s family and friends, as well as all those affected, in our thoughts and prayers. More than anything, I echo Kenmore Middle School Principal Bryan Stutz’s words to his families. ‘Let’s show extra kindness and patience with each other. Even though Ryan is no longer with us, we can surely be led by his example,’” she said in a statement.
Fisher launched a GoFundMe (tinyurl.com/y53lvrzw) campaign on May 28, with donations going toward covering emergency first response costs, emergency room medical costs, Harborview trauma hospitalization, diagnostic tests and scans, surgical procedures to save Payne’s life, funds to cover Payne’s funeral service and funds to cover Moran missing work as a Navy nurse.
Any additional funds raised through the campaign will go toward creating a scholarship at his school in Payne’s honor. The scholarship will support passionate and vibrant children in need, especially those in military and veteran families.
More than $50,000 has been donated to the campaign within 24 hours of its launch. The campaign has amassed more than $65,000 by Reporter deadline.
Fisher said the outpouring of support has been incredible.
“It’s sad to lose someone with such a bright future and who was so vibrant in spirit,” he said.