This is just beyond horrific.
A body discovered in waters off the Australian coast earlier this week was positively identified as 21-year-old U.S. college soccer player Eric Birighitti. Birighitti played for Hastings college in Nebraska before transferring to St. Thomas Aquinas in New York.
What makes this sad situation worse is that his body was found being eaten by sharks off Twilight Beach on the southwest Australia coast. It was only discovered because divers were already searching nearby for the body of 57-year-old Gary Johnson, who had been attacked by a great white shark, according to multiple reports.
“My sister and my father saw the sharks attacking the body,” witness Alison Walker told 9 News in Perth. “It was quite a big one, they say.”
The two deaths have prompted a shutdown of the beach.
It has been reported Birighitti was swept out into the ocean on January 2 after slipping on some rocks. Although a life preserver was thrown to him, but it wasn’t enough as he was dragged into the water by the swell.
During his time at Hastings, he played for the 2016 and 2017 season and won a national title for his contribution.
“The bronco family are saddened to hear about the sudden passing of Eric Birighitti,” said Hastings MSOC. “He will be truly missed and our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”
“I’ll never forget that moment you arrived at our place, a mere six months ago. You were brimming with an energy that would make lightning jealous,” James Kouzinas, Birighitti’s New York-based cousin, wrote in a social media post cited by the Australian Associated Press.
“In all aspects of your life, from your interactions with people and the deep love for your family, to your success on the football pitch – you were a true champion in every sense of the word.”
In a final Instagram post, Birighitti wrote: “As we finish off 2019, I hope everybody finds peace and is filled with love as the new year begins. Shout out to all those who cannot be with us for whatever reason. Remember to love always, be appreciative and smile.”