The University of Alabama is in mourning after John Servati, a member of the men's swimming and diving team, was killed when heavy storms and a tornado touched down near Tuscaloosa.
Servati, a 21-year-old junior from Tupelo, Miss., died on Monday after sustaining injuries in his off-campus home as a result of the severe weather, the university said in a statement Tuesday. Other accounts said Servati was trying to hold up a failing concrete wall to protect his girlfriend when he was killed. She wasn't injured.
"John Servati was an extraordinary young man of great character and warmth who had a tremendously giving spirit," his coach, Dennis Pursley, said in a statement posted on the university’s swimming and diving Web page. "During this incredibly difficult time, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to all who had the good fortune to know him. He will forever be in our hearts and a part of the Crimson Tide legacy."
Servati was a business major and a three-time member of the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll and a scorer of the SEC Championships, the University of Alabama said.
Phillip Deaton, the team captain of Alabama’s swimming and diving team, said Servati “definitely had a genuine heart."
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“He was a carefree guy who always had this huge smile on his face. He was my training partner for three years and I can tell you that while he liked to goof around and have fun, when he stepped up on the block he was intensely focused -- he was a competitor and an amazing teammate. As a team, we are doing the best we can right now,” Deaton said.
Bill Battle, UA’s athletic director, called Servati “a model student-athlete who excelled in his sport of swimming, his pursuit of excellence in academics, and his value as a son, brother, friend and teammate to all who knew him.
“We are all saddened to learn of the untimely death of John Servati. Our thoughts and prayers go out to John’s family and friends as we grieve his passing.”
Twitter users were touched by Servati’s actions. “John Servati” briefly trended Tuesday on Twitter.
John Servati was a swimmer for Alabama that died by saving his girlfriend from a collapsing wall. I hope I can be half the man he was.
â€” Riley Niblett (@RileyNiblett) April 29, 2014
Praying for the friends and family of John Servati. What he did was incredibly heroic.
â€” Shawna Boswell (@ShawnaLouise) April 29, 2014
Rest in Peace the Alabama swimmer, John Servati, who sacrificed his own life to save his girlfriend's in the horrible storms down south
â€” Jade Calhoun (@_missjadie) April 29, 2014
Major respect for John Servati! Prayers go out for his girlfriend and family. pic.twitter.com/xLmS5orlHt
â€” ✞Athlete for Christ✝ (@aFaithfulTeen) April 29, 2014
â€” Mitch Gaspard (@MitchGaspard) April 29, 2014
The amount of selflessness John Servati showed for his girlfriend is uncanny. He is the definition of a hero. Prayers to his family.
â€” Jemmye Carroll (@JustJem24) April 29, 2014