A 24-year-old Waterloo, Ont. woman who was tragically killed in a hiking accident in northern Italy on New Year’s Day is being remembered as a “beautiful soul” who lit up a room when she entered.
Chelsea Rebecca Alvarez was hiking on a mountain path at a height of 2,200 metres in the Italian province of South Tyrol near the Austrian border, when reports say she lost her balance during icy conditions and fell 150 metres to her death.
Rescue crews reportedly rushed to the scene with the aid of a helicopter but media reported Alvarez was killed instantly and her body was later recovered.
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Alvarez was engaged to former captain of the OHL’s Barrie Colts, Colin Behenna, who currently plays for the Sterzing Broncos team in the Alps Hockey League in South Tyrol.
Gus Bastias, a minor league hockey coach and regular at the St. Louis Bar & Grill in Waterloo where Alvarez previously worked, said she moved to Europe with Behenna about six months ago.
“She was always serving with a big smile, just a beautiful soul,” he said, adding the local community was devastated by the news.
“It’s tragic that she’s gone … It’s a sad day and it’s a sad time. I can’t believe this has happened.”
Alvarez had been working at the bar since 2011 and graduated from the mechanical engineering systems program at Conestoga College in 2015, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Cameron MacIntyre, the bar’s owner and Alvarez’s former employer, said it was a “tough day” for everyone in the community who knew her.
“She was a beautiful, intelligent, fun person to be around, she was full of life. Nothing I can say negative about her,” he said, adding “everyone loved her.”
“She was just a joy to be around, she enriched everybody’s lives, she was a big part of our St. Louis family here for five years or so, she’s going to be dearly missed.”
MacIntyre said Alvarez started as a server and later became a bartender, before taking a job with a local company in the engineering industry and moving to Europe with Behenna.
“They were very excited, they became engaged this summer and they were going over for the first leg of his professional hockey career and she was very excited,” MacIntyre said.
“She was settling into the life in Italy and she really enjoyed it. She was just such a spirited person.”
Behenna was a former captain of the Barrie Colts OHL team and later played for the University of Waterloo before moving to Europe to play for the Sterzing Broncos.
The team cancelled a game scheduled for Jan. 1, citing a “tragic accident.”
On Tuesday, the team issued a statement expressing its condolences to Behenna and Alvarez’s family and noted that Behenna was travelling back to Canada with his fiancee’s family.
“The last two days were very emotional for the entire team,” it said in a German statement.
Bastias said Alvarez played hockey in a AA league as well as in high school and said the tragic news of her death spread quickly within the Waterloo hockey community.
“She’s going to be missed,” Bastias said. “It’s a great loss for our community here.”
MacIntyre said Alvarez wholeheartedly supported Behenna’s hockey career and it was “the time of their life” to travel to Europe together.
“She would have always been welcomed back to St. Louis Waterloo but I don’t think we were going to get that lucky to have her back. I think she would have come home and resumed her career as an engineer,” he said.
“She would just fill the room up, simple as that. She was just a joy to be here. Just by her showing up, the whole place would lighten up.”
With files from Tom Hayes and The Canadian Press