Update (02/03 3:30pm): A GoFundMe account has been set up in memory of Alex Howell. Donate by going to https://www.gofundme.com/n3mr9yf8
Medford, Ore. –It was a tough practice for many members of the Southern Oregon University wrestling team Monday. Their friend and former wrestler, 23-year-old Alex Howell, died Saturday while abalone diving on the coast with friends.
“I was at the river the day before that and the trip to the coast to go abalone diving was kind of the last thing on the checklist. But it was one he didn’t come back from,” senior wrestler Chris Moreno said.
Oregon State Police said Howell was about 75 yards out from shore when strong rip currents separated him from friends. They found him unresponsive on the beach. Howell was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“He was a really great guy. It’s such a sad loss,” senior wrestler James Bowers said. “Sometimes you just wonder why?”
Howell was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Oregon National Guard and planned to head to San Diego Tuesday to see family before driving to Georgia for military officer training.
An athlete, Howell was also well loved in the crossfit community. He was a member at CrossFit the Den in Medford.
“Alex would come in and he was always very happy,” CrossFit the Den member Michelle Rarick said. “He had a big smile on his face from the moment he walked in the door until he left.”
Coaches and friends paid tribute to Howell with a workout made to honor him.
“It’s been a tough day ll the way through,” coach Justyn Yarbrough said. “It’s been a day where emotions have gone from laughing and enjoying life to understanding that life is so short and it can be taken at any moment.”
Friends said Alex was always up for an adventure, loved to make people laugh, and was constantly encouraging others.
“It just makes me feel like I’m really glad that I knew him,” junior wrestler Ian Rogers said.