Obituary: Rob Vega / University of Pittsburgh student who died in rafting accident

April 1 1991- July 6, 2013

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Rob Vega was known for his charisma, omnipresent smile and hard work.

"He could always talk to people. Everyone always told him that he would be president one day," said Brent Hill of Conway of his longtime friend and roommate.

"He would get like a 20-page paper, finish it the first day, and spend the next two months revising it. Once he put his mind to something, nothing could stop him," said Mr. Hill. "His only addiction was working out. He got up at 6 a.m. every morning to make sure we worked out."

Mr. Vega, 22, died following a rafting accident on Saturday on the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County.

The raft flipped near Dimple Rock, one of the most challenging spots in the 7 1/2-mile stretch of the river known as the Lower Yough. It was Mr. Vega's first rafting trip.

Born in New Britain, Conn., Mr. Vega moved to Lancaster, Pa., with his family in 2003. In 2009, Mr. Vega, who was fluent in Spanish, graduated from J.P. McCaskey High School, where he completed the school's International Baccalaureate Program and graduated with honors. Mr. Vega graduated cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh in April, with a double major in psychology and political science. He had been accepted to Pitt's law school and was planning to attend in the fall.

Mr. Vega worked as an intern in the office of Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl from January to August 2012.

"I was deeply saddened to hear of Rob's tragic passing," Mr. Ravenstahl said in a statement. "He was an invaluable asset to my office during his internship and was destined for great things. Always greeting everyone with a smile, Rob was also a dedicated hard worker whose efforts had a direct impact on our city's neighborhoods. My heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Special Assistant to the Mayor Jim Sheppard, who supervised Mr. Vega during his time in the office, said that Mr. Vega was hardworking and nice. "Even if it was just mundane data work, he always did it with a smile."

Mr. Vega, whose mother is from Costa Rica and father is from Puerto Rico, hoped to become an immigration lawyer. Mr. Hill noted that it was his time in the mayor's office that first inspired Mr. Vega to go to law school.

While at Pitt, Mr. Vega worked as a Pitt Pathfinder, a group of roughly 170 Pitt students who work to recruit students to the university.

Debbie Rupert of Churchill, who is the adviser to the group, said: "He was one of the best Pathfinders that we've ever had. He would make people feel like they were the only people in the room."

Longtime girlfriend Anne-Marie McCandless, who also grew up in Lancaster and graduated from Pitt this year, said that he "just liked to make people happy, and he was always worried about others. You could depend on him any time of day, any time of night. He was my rock; he was everybody's rock."

Mr. Vega is survived by his mother, Mary Vega, and his father, Robert Vega, as well as two brothers, Anthony, 18, and Alexander, 10, all of Lancaster.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

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Maggie Neil: mneil@post-gazette.com.


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