A 21-year-old University of Oregon tennis player drowned on Saturday after leaping off a 60-foot waterfall into the McKenzie River.
Alex Rovello, a junior, drowned after hitting the river with his face and upper body, local television station KGW reports.
Bystanders attempted to rescue Rovello after his deadly jump, but they were hindered by the water’s depth and freezing temperatures, Sgt. Dave Lawler of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
One witness ran more than two miles to obtain cell phone reception and dial 911, KGW reports. Official rescue efforts were also unsuccessful, as divers recovered Rovello’s body more than 30 feet below the surface of the river’s Blue Pool, a popular swimming hole. Rovello had leapt from an elevated area known as Tamolitch Falls.
Rovello’s tragic death resulted in an outpouring of support among friends and family, with many students changing their Facebook profile pictures to honor their fallen classmate, the Oregonian reported.
"Everyone loved him and he was just always so nice," Lauren James, a high school classmate and friend, said. "He could light up a room with his smile."
Alcohol wasn't believed to have played a role in the incident, according to the Linn County Sheriff’s department. A funeral service has been planned for Saturday, May 18, KGW reports.
University of Oregon tennis coach Nils Schyllander expressed his condolences to the Rovello family.
"The Oregon tennis family is devastated by the loss of Alex," Schyllander said in a statement. "He was an amazing person and teammate and his spirit will live on forever with all of us who were fortunate enough to have known him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his parents, Geri and Jim Rovello, and to the entire family."
A graduate of Cleveland High School in Portland, Ore., Rovello finished his secondary school tennis career with a spotless 50-0 singles record, becoming the first boys' tennis player in state history to win four singles titles. Rovello continued his success at the University of Oregon, recording a 21-8 singles record this season.
“Alex was so much more than a dedicated and exemplary student-athlete at the University of Oregon,” Director of Athletics Rob Mullens said in a statement. “He was a son, a friend, a teammate, a leader, whose warm personality brought everyone together and whose contributions to the extended Oregon community will resonate long after today. On behalf of the UO family, we extend our sympathies to Alex’s family, and we will honor his memory each and every day.”