Naperville teen, 2 others killed in an avalanche near Swiss resort of Zermatt

Naperville Central High School freshman Aleksas Beiga and two other people were killed in an avalanche near the Swiss resort of Zermatt, police said Tuesday. One person was flown to a hospital with serious injuries.

The avalanche occurred at about 2 p.m. Monday in an off-piste area of the Riffelberg, above the resort and below the famed Matterhorn peak. Rescuers recovered three bodies and the injured skier, a 20-year-old Swiss man.

The victims were the 15-year-old Beiga, as well as a man and a woman whose identification has not yet been concluded, police in Valais canton said in a statement. They gave no further details but said they currently have no information on the woman’s identity.

Skiers ride down the slopes of the Zermatt ski resort near the Mount Matterhorn in Zermatt in the canton of Valais, Switzerland. A Naperville teenager and two other people were killed Monday in an avalanche near the Swiss resort, police said. Associated Press file photo, 2012

On Tuesday, Naperville Central Principal Jackie Thornton sent an email to school parents notifying them “with profound sadness” of Beiga’s death during a spring break trip in Switzerland.

“Our sincere condolences go out to Alex’s family and friends,” Thornton wrote.

A Naperville Central coach on Wednesday said Beiga was a member of the Redhawks boys swim team and also a member of the school’s ski and snowboard club.

Beiga, son of former Lithuanian swimmer Nerijus Beiga, who competed at the 1996 Atlanta and 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics, also swam for the Academy Bullets Swim Club under the leadership of head coach Todd Capen in Aurora.

“He was a fantastic young man, he lit up a room, great energy at all times. He knew when to crack a joke, he knew when to be serious, he knew when teammates needed to be comforted or encouraged,” Capen said.

“He was that kid who always had a smile on his face and brought a lot of positive energy to a room.”

The coach said Beiga had many interests along with swimming such as chorus, skateboarding and “crazy jumps on his bike.”

Calling him “a daredevil at times,” Capen said the first time he met Beiga at an Academy Bullets practice he arrived with two broken arms from bracing a fall after landing a jump on a bike.

“What he was most proud of is he got it on video,” Capen said.

Capen said Beiga’s best days in the pool were ahead of him. Capen informed his Bullets teammates about Beiga’s death on Tuesday, but Wednesday’s practice was the first time his training group and peers practiced together.

“It was tough, tough being a nice word to describe it,” Capen said.

“It’s going to take a long time to get past this because he was so well-liked, so loved by everybody. He brought a lot of energy, a lot of positivity to a room, and it’s going to be missed,” Capen said.

A GoFundMe account to support the Beiga family was started Tuesday. The account had already raised over $37,000 as of Wednesday evening.

“Beyond his adventurous spirit, Aleksas was a beacon of kindness and intelligence,” wrote Neringa Mockus, the organizer of the GoFundMe account.

“His warmth and empathy knew no bounds, and he had a remarkable ability to uplift those around him with his words and actions.”

Prosecutors were investigating the avalanche.

Last month, five members of a Swiss family were found dead after going missing while cross-country skiing near the Matterhorn in difficult weather conditions. Authorities abandoned the search for a sixth missing person days later.

· The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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