Jet Skiing Accident Claims Life of Dancer

Brandon Hensley

Tired and gleaming with sweat, Victor Robles sat back on his couch next to his desk, exhausted from another day of teaching dance. A new semester had begun. Life goes on.

The next day, Dora Krannig, head of the dance department, met with new and returning students, followed by a faculty meeting. Business as usual, because life goes on.
Or it doesn’t.

For 25-year-old Chanisar “June” Dechakaisaya, her life was just beginning. Six years after first enrolling at GCC, she graduated this spring, receiving her certificate in choreographic studies and dance technique. Teachers raved about her abilities. Students were drawn to her friendly disposition.

She was planning on taking a semester off to ponder her next move, possibly to teach or intern somewhere. It was the first summer of the rest of her life.

On Aug. 9, Dechakaisaya was Jet Skiing with friends at Silverwood Lake in San Bernardino. At 2:05 p.m. she was on a watercraft near the shoreline when a 15-year-old boy riding a 2000 Yamaha three-seater jumped a wave and struck Dechakaisaya in the head. Her friends pulled her out of the water but Dechakaisaya was unconscious. She wouldn’t wake up again.

Dechakaisaya was airlifted to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center and was pronounced dead at 3:06 p.m.

A beautiful young woman known for the way she gracefully moved her choreographed body across a dance floor lay motionless in an instant due to the unpredictable movement of water.

Her memorial was held on Aug. 22 at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Inside the small, humid chapel, over 100 friends, family, and teachers gathered to console each other, and to celebrate her life.
While her friends in Southern California mourned the tragedy, her parents traveled from their home in Thailand to say goodbye to their daughter.

The service was a moving tribute to Dechakaisaya’s life and the impact she had on so many. There were two separate videos dedicated to her. Hymns were sung and friends shared memories. Her father tried to speak, but could barely get out any words.

In describing her, it seems anyone who knew her could pick from an assortment of superlatives as if they grew on trees.
“Everyone loved her,” said professor emeritus of Dance Lynn McMurrey.

One of Dechakaisaya’s closest friends, Chad Klunglukchup, called her a comforting presence, and said no matter how her day was going, she was always there for him. “She had a smile for everybody,” he said.

And a heart to match.

Her closest friend in dance, Akyaka Fushimi, came over from Japan two years ago. While Fushimi was struggling to learn the culture and the English language, Dechakaisaya befriended her, doing a lot for Fushimi’s self-confidence. “I didn’t speak English really well when I met her, but she didn’t care about my difficulty in English. She was really patient,” Fushimi said.

Dechakaisaya took her to the movies, out shopping, and to church. Fushimi couldn’t put what was best about her in a nutshell. “A lot of things,” she said through watery eyes.

Dance Instructor Phyllis Eckler called Dechakaisaya “A bright star, [who] got along great with all the students.”

Robles admired her ability to seamlessly integrate herself in a crowded room. She added his Jazz Performance class over a week late last year, but it wasn’t a problem for her. “The kids here already formed cliques, they formed their groups, and she came in and I would have thought she had known them forever. She fit right in. She was very personable,” Robles recalled.

On the dance floor, Dechakaisaya was “clean, persistent, and precise,” said Robles. Eckler described her as a natural talent. But it took time for her to tap into her potential.

“During the time she was in my choreography class and dance history, I realized that she was sometimes performing under her level, and I talked to her about it and she started to blossom,” Kranning said. “I took some time and got to know her.” What did Krannig find?

“I found out she was extremely intelligent with a very bright future if she wanted it.”
McMurrey, who directed Dechakaisaya in several performances, said she was initially “inconsistent. You had to pin her down and then for the last few semesters you didn’t because she suddenly got it and took off with it, and there was no limit to where I think she could have gone.”

Now, the overriding sentiment within the department is the grief over what might have been, for Dechakaisaya the dancer, and the person.

“The tragedy of it all is that she made the commitment…She was ready to go to the next level,” said Robles.

“It’s just so sad to see somebody so young, vibrant and motivated come to an untimely death,” echoed Eckler.

The one who may have been most affected is Krannig. “It’s such a loss to lose a girl who was 25 and just starting to go out there do something,” she said. Krannig was in Switzerland when the accident happened, and could not attend the memorial. She feels because of that, the other instructors were able to find closure, something still alluding her.

The department has decided to dedicate “Phanatics,” a performance opening later this fall, to Dechakaisaya. “I think that will bring a lot more peace,” said Krannig.

As new freshmen arrive on campus and older ones leave, the number of current students who knew Dechakaisaya have dwindled. That doesn’t mean the heart of the dance department in the Sierra Nevada building has been fully repaired. Life will go on, and so will Dechakaisaya’s memory. Because it has to.

“She was a good one,” said Krannig, “and I’d like to know she’s out there.”