EUGENE, Ore. — What was supposed to be a fun weekend outing with a group of friends, ended with the death of a University of Oregon student-athlete. Alex Rovello, 21, died Saturday after jumping 60 feet off a waterfall.
A memorial is in the works for Saturday, but on Monday friends, family and university staff were still trying to wrap their heads around the tragic loss.
The tennis courts on the University of Oregon campus sat empty Monday, but some of the memories made in them hold strong.
“Always joking, always smiling, especially on the tennis courts. He played with such intensity. I always loved to watch him play,” said friend Noah Sheikh.
This weekend Rovello, the tennis standout, and a group of friends visited Tamolitch Pool, east of Blue River. He jumped into the clear waters, but never came back up.
“It’s like a 45-minute walk from the trail head into the area. And even though the water is 37 degrees, the likelihood if you don’t get somebody out of water in like 15 minutes in that cold of water, they’re not going to make it,” said Deputy Paul Vitus, Lane County Search and Rescue.
Rovello’s friends who all witnessed the jump were devastated.
“They’re traumatized. It’s a very traumatic thing to watch somebody or a loved one pass away and not be able to do anything. There were several people who tried to get him. Dove into the water and just couldn’t,” Vitus said.
Those who didn’t see it with their own eyes say they had a hard time accepting the news.
“It was just shock. I didn’t really want to believe it,” Sheikh said.
As the truth sinks in, Rovello’s friends are banding together, helping each other through the difficult time and sharing memories of the friend they lost.
“There’s been a lot of laughter, which has been good a lot of people to remember about him. He really meant a great deal to a lot of people,” Sheikh said.
Athlete or not, deputies say something like this could happen to anyone who cliff dives. Hitting water can be like hitting concrete from that height.