The body of a soccer star who once played for a U.S. college has been found days after he was swept into the ocean, according to multiple outlets in Australia.
Eric Birighitti — who played for Football West’s Perth Soccer Club, according to Western Australia Today — was recoved Tuesday, five days after he was swept off rocks on Jan. 2 at Twilight Beach in Western Australia, near Perth.
Police told The Australian that Birighitti was with friends at the beach at the time of the incident, and that they attempted to help him but couldn’t rescue the athlete. According to the outlet, authorities further said, “He got into difficulties and was thrown a life preserver however the swell has taken him out of view of his friends.”
Local outlet 9 News Perth reported that Great White sharks were spotted off the coast of the beach, lured by Birighitti’s body. “My sister and my father saw the sharks attacking the body,” witness Alison Waker told the outlet.
The same day Birighitti’s body was recovered, Esperance Police tweeted that the beach was closed after a shark sighting.
ALERT: Twilight Beach has been closed following a shark sighting. Please a wood attending beaches in this area #fb— Esperance Police (@EsperancePol) January 7, 2020
Birighitti played soccer at Hastings College in Nebraska, and the college confirmed his death and posted a tribute to the athlete earlier this week.
“The bronco family are saddened to hear about the sudden passing of Eric Birighitti,” Hastings MSOC tweeted. “Eric played for Hastings during the 2016 & 2017 season and won a national title with the team.”
The statement continued, “He will be truly missed and our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time. #1T1F.”
The bronco family are saddened to hear about the sudden passing of Eric Birighitti. Eric played for Hastings during the 2016 & 2017 season and won a national title with the team. He will be truly missed and our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time. #1T1F pic.twitter.com/oST7iyLAeT— Hastings MSOC (@HastingsMSoccer) January 7, 2020
Birighitti’s death comes amid a difficult time for Australia, which is being ravaged by wildfires.
Since September, at least 25 people have been killed from the bushfires while 12 million acres have been wiped out with hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed, as well. A seven-day state of emergency was declared on Dec. 23.
According to Today, over 1 billion animals are feared dead due to Australia’s raging wildfires. This bleak estimate, which doubles the death count experts predicted weeks ago, comes from Chris Dickman, a professor of ecology at the University of Sydney, who adjusted his earlier estimate of 480 millions animals killed by the fires in just New South Wales — a southeastern Australian state greatly affected by the brushfires — to 840 million. To Dickman, this means the overall animal death toll in the whole of Australia is probably over one billion.