A soccer player at an upstate New York college died over holiday break in his native Australia when he fell into the ocean and was swept away by the current, according to reports.
Eric Birighitti, a 21-year-old student at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, was hanging out with friends near Twilight Beach in Esperance Jan. 2 when he slipped on rocks and fell into the water, local outlets reported at the time.
“He got into difficulties and was thrown a life preserver however the swell has taken him out of view of his friends,” police told The Australian.
The athlete’s body was discovered about five days later, by a family boating nearby who said they saw sharks attacking the remains, 9 News reported.
Birighitti had previously played for the Perth Soccer Club in Australia and once attended Hastings College in Nebraska, where he had the assist for the game-winning goal in the 2016 NAIA Championship over the University of Rio Grande in Ohio.
He transferred to the Rockland County school in August 2019 for the academics — and to be closer to New York City, said Coach Graham Brown, who runs STAC’s soccer program.
“He was just a bundle of energy, always smiling, always positive, no matter who he came into contact with… he treated everybody the exactly the same,” Brown told LoHud.
“It was a joy to be in his presence.”
Birighitti, a junior majoring in business management, played wide defender and wide midfield for the team, wearing No. 28.
“His teammates are devastated,” said the coach.
In his last Instagram post, on Christmas Eve, the Melbourne-native sent out heartfelt wishes to his followers.
“As we finish off 2019, I hope everybody finds peace and is filled with love as the new year begins,” Birighitti wrote.
“Shout out to all those who cannot be with us for whatever reason. Remember to love always, be appreciative and smile.”
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