Eric Birighitti, a soccer player with St. Thomas Aquinas College in New York, was killed when he drowned on Western Australia’s south coast. He was 21 years old.
That bio says that Birighitti was the son of Paul and Sia Birighitti. In addition, Birighitti has an older brother named Jordan.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Shark That Attacked Birighitti’s Body Was Described as ‘Quite a Big One’
The Australian newspaper reports that Birighitti died on January 2 after he was swept away to sea around 4 p.m. His body was found in the water close to Twilight Beach in Esperance on January 7. 9 News Perth reports that when Birighitti’s body was found, sharks were spotting in the water and were attacking the corpse. One witness, Alison Walker, told the station, “My sister and my father saw the sharks attacking the body. And it was quite a big one, they say.”
The 9 News report goes on to say that Birighitti had fallen from some rocks into the water when he was initially separated from his party. A police statement on Birighitti’s death, via the Australian, said in part, “He got into difficulties and was thrown a life preserver however the swell has taken him out of view of his friends.”
2. Hastings College Said Birighitti Was Blessed With ‘Infectious Positive Energy’
Birighitti had been a scholarship student at Hastings College. The school paid tribute to Birighitti saying in a statement, “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.”
A subsequent message from Hastings College read, “Every single person that has spoken about Eric over the past couple of days has mentioned how infectious his positive energy was, and how he always made everybody laugh.”
3. In 2016, Birighitti Set Up the Game-Winning Goal in the NAIA Final
Prior to attending college in the U.S., Birighitti was a high school student at Aquinas College in Perth, Australia. According to Birighitti’s official profile on Hastings College’s website, he was a native of Perth and played as a defender. Hastings College is a private, Christian, residential liberal arts four-year college in Hastings, a town located 160 miles west of Nebraska.
In winning the 2016 NAIA Championship, Birighitti had the assist for Lucas Venegas’ game-winning goal for Hastings over Rio Grande from Ohio, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
4. On Christmas Eve, Birighitti Posted What Turned Out to Be His Final Instagram Message
Birighitti’s poignant final Instagram message read, “Merry Christmas everyone! 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.”
A press release announcing Birighitti’s decision to play for Hastings College described his style as a “very dynamic, predominant right wing-back, who can play right-back and left-back, as he can play both feet with solid technical ability. That press release says that Birighitti had attended to study urban planning at Hastings.
5. Birighitti Comes From a Well Known Soccer Family
Birighitti’s cousin is professional goalkeeper Mark Birighitti. At the time of writing, Mark Birighitti is contracted to the Central Coast Mariners. Mark is also a native of Perth. Mark Birighitti, a goalkeeper, has spent time playing in Europe for Swansea City and for NAC Breda in the Netherlands. In 2014, Mark was linked with a move to German giants Bayer Leverkusen. He has played once for the Australian national team.
While Birighitti’s grandfather was Australian soccer coach John Birighitti, who once coached soccer legend, Bobby Charlton, during the former Manchester United legend’s brief stint playing for Perth Soccer Club. John Birighitti was a native of Sondrio, Italy. He has been referred to as his region’s “Mr. Football.” Eric Birighitti was listed as a media and IT specialist on Perth Soccer Club’s website.