Reports: NAIA soccer champion Eric Birighitti drowns off Australian coast, body found eaten by sharks

Jason Owens
Eric Birighitti died off the coast of Esperance, Australia. (Getty Images)
Eric Birighitti died off the coast of Esperance, Australia. (Getty Images)

A body discovered in waters off the Australian coast on Tuesday has been identified as 21-year-old U.S. college soccer player Eric Birighitti.

Birighitti played for Hastings college in Nebraska before transferring to St. Thomas Aquinas in New York.

2nd death in local waters in recent days

Birighitti’s body was found being eaten by sharks off Twilight Beach on the southwest Australia coast as divers searched nearby for the body of 57-year-old Gary Johnson, who had been attacked by a great white shark, according to multiple reports.

A family on a boating outing made the discovery, and witnesses initially believed it belonged to Johnson.

“My sister and my father saw the sharks attacking the body,” witness Alison Walker told 9 News in Perth. “It was quite a big one, they say.”

Police later identified the body as belonging to Birighitti. The two deaths have prompted a shutdown of the beach near the town of Esperence.

Birighitti assisted on championship-winning goal

Birighitti, a Melbourne native according to his St. Thomas Aquinas bio, had been missing since Jan. 2 when he fell into the ocean after slipping on rocks while on vacation with friends, according to reports. His friends attempted to save him before the current pulled him out to sea.

Birighitti played soccer for Hastings during the 2016 and 2017 seasons and won an NAIA championship in 2016. He assisted on the game-winning goal in the championship game. The soccer team acknowledged his death on social media after he was identified.

Birighitti was the son of Paul and Sia Birighitti and is also survived by his brother Jordan, according to his St. Thomas Aquinas bio. He was studying business management.

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