A young Ontario woman who had recently moved to Europe with her fiance died on New Year’s Day after falling off a mountain path during a hike near the Italian-Austrian border.
Chelsea Rebecca Alvarez was hiking on Jan. 1 in a mountainous area in the South Tyrol region of northern Italy, when she reportedly slipped off a path and fell onto rocks in a valley below, local media reports said.
The 24-year-old died instantly, the reports said, and rescue teams recovered her body from the area.
Those who knew her said Alvarez had moved to Italy about six months ago with her fiance, Colin Behenna, a former Ontario Hockey League player who signed a deal to play for the Sterzing Broncos team based in northern Italy.
The team cancelled a game scheduled for Jan. 1, citing a “tragic accident” involving the team.
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.
Alvarez, who graduated from Conestoga College with an engineering degree in 2015, had been working as a server and bartender at the St. Louis Bar and Grill in Waterloo, Ont., for the last five years, said restaurant owner Cameron MacIntyre.
She left for Italy in August to accompany her fiance for his hockey season abroad, MacIntyre said.
“She was thrilled,” he said in an interview. “They were really excited, it was the start of their life together.”
MacIntyre said Alvarez and Behenna got engaged just shortly before leaving for Italy.
“She was just a wonderful, wonderful young lady,” he said. “She was fully of energy, brilliant, beautiful…everyone she touched around her, their life got better after meeting her.”
Gus Bastias, a local hockey coach and a regular at the restaurant who knew Alvarez, said the young woman was the one who taught him how to navigate the photo-based social media platform Instagram.
“It sounds so cliche but she was just this beautiful soul,” he said. “This is extremely tragic.”
Alvarez was also remembered by those who had watched her play hockey growing up in Waterloo.
“She was the sweetest girl you can imagine,” said John Harada, whose daughter played on the same teams as Alvarez. “She just came from a very well-grounded family.”
Harada, who now lives in Vancouver, said he’s considering flying back to Waterloo for Alvarez’s funeral if it is a public one.
“We’re all numb,” he said. “She was only 24. She was really young.”
Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press