21-year-old University of Alabama swimmer John Servati was killed when a retaining wall fell on him during a severe storm on Monday. Servati was crushed as he held the wall up so his girlfriend could escape.
A UA spokesman confirmed Servati’s identity after the news broke that a man had been killed when the basement wall of his home collapsed during the storm.
Megan Brantley, a spokesperson for the city of Tuscaloosa, said that a 21-year-old male had been crushed by the collapsing wall.
Witnesses reported a death in a heavily flooded home, according to an officer with the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit. Servati was taken to DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, but sadly could not be saved.
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Servati’s classmates and fellow swimmers are mourning the loss of an “extraordinary young man,” in the words of Alabama coach Dennis Pursley, who excelled academically as well as in the pool.
"John definitely had a genuine heart," Alabama captain Phillip Deaton said. "He was a carefree guy who always had this huge smile on his face. He was my training partner for three years and I can tell you that while he liked to goof around and have fun, when he stepped up on the block he was intensely focused - he was a competitor and an amazing teammate. As a team, we are doing the best we can right now."
Others lauded Servati for the bravery he exhibited to save his girlfriend, who was uninjured.
“John Servati died a hero. Held up a concrete wall long enough for his girlfriend to get out from under it before it collapsed again on him,” tweeted UA swimmer Anna Rae Gwarjanski.
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Alabama coaches met with swim and dive team members early Tuesday. A prayer service was later held at Calvary Baptist Church, near the Aquatic Center where Servati spent so much of his time.