Cause of death of Cuesta College student-athlete remains a mystery

A memorial dedicated to Estefania Cerna Arroyo located inside the office of the athletics department at Cuesta College. Photo by Daniel Burg

Trigger Warning: This story contains content regarding the untimely death of a Cuesta College student.

It has been almost three months since the death of Cuesta College student athlete Estefania Cerna Arroyo and the cause of death remains unknown.

Since September 25 and no later than December 12, The Cuestonian has been working to uncover more information about the death. The Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office said the inquest into Arroyo’s cause of death was still ongoing. They directed further inquiries to Raquel Zick, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, who did not respond to repeated attempts to comment.

For now, the cause of death is still unknown.

Arroyo, 18, a student athlete from Cuesta College who played on the women’s water polo team, died on September 25.

“It pains us a great deal to inform you of the loss of one of our current water polo students, Estefania Cerna Arroyo,” said Elizabeth Coria, Acting Assistant Superintendent / Vice President of Success and Development Programs. student support at Cuesta College, in an email statement. “Estefania, aged 18, passed away on Saturday September 25, 2021. Estefania began her educational journey at Cuesta College Fall 2021 with a specialization in biology, with the ambition to attend a medical school to become a surgeon. Estefania is survived by her mother, father, stepfather and siblings.

“Our thoughts and deep sympathy are with the family during this difficult time,” Coria’s email statement continued. “The loss of one of our students is an incredible heartbreak, but no one has to bear this loss alone. Our Student Health Services Team is available to provide access to mental health services.

Second-year member of the Cuesta women’s water polo team Lanni Hardin spoke fondly of her former teammate.

“One of the purest kindest people I’ve ever met,” Hardin said.

Cuesta women’s water polo team has not played since September 17th, and no new updates have been posted to the official team website since October 8. The squad is currently 4-4 but their schedule indicates that the rest of the season is canceled.

Rich Firman, head coach of the Cuesta women’s water polo team, commented on the team’s loss and the general difficulties they have faced recently.

“Everyone is shocked, I think the feeling is, ‘How could that happen? “We just don’t understand,” Firman said. “The team are really feeling the impact of Estefania’s death, in combination with all the stress from COVID it’s been a tough few years. I really see the impact on the players.

Arroyo is survived by his mother, father, stepfather and siblings. The family established a GoFundMe page in his name to accumulate funds for the memorial.

Daniel Burg contributed to this story.


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