Home News Naperville Central student dies in avalanche during Swiss ski trip

Naperville Central student dies in avalanche during Swiss ski trip

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Naperville Central High School freshman Aleksas “Alex” Beiga died in an avalanche while on a spring break ski trip in Switzerland, according to Swiss authorities, an email to parents and guardians from the school’s principal and the youth’s ex-swim coach.

The Associated Press, citing Swiss police, reported Tuesday that a 15-year-old American teenager was one of three people who were killed in the avalanche Monday afternoon near the Swiss resort of Zermatt. A family friend and the ex-coach confirmed that Alex died in that incident.

Aleksas Beiga (Courtesy Brian Brown)
Aleksas Beiga (Courtesy Brian Brown)

Brian Brown was Alex’s swim coach at Academy Bullets Swim Club for about five years, he said in a call Wednesday.

“Alex was just a great kid,” Brown recalled.

Brown met Alex as third grader when he transferred into Academy Bullet’s program out of Westmont, he said. He remained Alex’s coach until about 18 months ago, Brown said, when both he and Alex transferred to different clubs.  

Brown remembered Alex as hard working and positive.

“He had this innate ability to know when to crack a joke. When practice got real hard, (when) his teammates … were getting a little discouraged, he knew when to make it funny,” Brown said.

Alex’s passing, Brown said, is “a big loss for our program, a big loss for his teammates that aren’t going to have that happy kid at practice anymore, and it’s a big loss for the future — whatever he was going to do, he was going to be very successful.”

Brown heard about Monday’s avalanche through a text from Alex’s dad early Tuesday morning, he said.

“I don’t know how many times I read it before it sunk in what had happened. His dad told me that they had lost him in an avalanche,” Brown said.

Zermatt sits at the foot of the famed Matterhorn peak. Rescuers recovered three bodies and an injured skier, a 20-year-old Swiss man, who was flown to a hospital, according to police from the Switzerland canton (state) of Valais.

In a pair of news releases, Valais cantonal police identified the victims as a 15-year-old American boy, a 58-year-old Swiss man and a 25-year-old Canadian woman.

Prosecutors were investigating the incident.

“Our sincere condolences go out to Alex’s family and friends,” Naperville Central Principal Jackie Thornton wrote in her email message to parents and guardians Tuesday.

Thornton offered counseling services to students as the school “mourn(s) the loss of our fellow Redhawk.”

The Associated Press contributed.

tkenny@chicagotribune.com



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