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Tennis player drowns after cliff jump

Posted at 8:05 AM, May 14, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-14 09:27:15-04

BLUE RIVER, Ore. (KVAL) – A 21-year-old University of Oregon tennis star from Portland died Saturday afternoon after jumping off a 60-foot cliff into Tamolitch Pool, Linn County sheriff’s deputies said.

Deputies reported that Alex James Rovello, 21, of Portland, drowned after jumping and hitting the water with his face and upper chest at around 2 p.m. Tamolitch Falls, which is a popular place for cliff diving, is about 90 miles northeast of Eugene.

Rovello is a 2010 graduate of Cleveland High School in Portland and became the first tennis player in state history to win four straight singles titles.

At the University of Oregon, he helped the tennis team rise in the college rankings and beat Stanford for the first time ever. He won 10 matches at the No. 1 singles position last year.

On Saturday, friends and bystanders tried saving him, however the depth and near-freezing temperature of the water proved too difficult, officials said. The water there is 37 degrees.

Cell phone reception was spotty in the area and a witness had to run nearly two miles before he was able to get service and call 911, officials said.

The pool, also called "Blue Pool." is near the Trail Bridge Campground about 20 miles east of Blue River and is fed by the McKenzie River.

A cashier at the nearby Harbick's Country Store told KVAL News that the cold waters of Blue Pool and the McKenzie River are extremely dangerous this time of year, as swimmers may not realize how cold the waters really are.

Deputies said alcohol didn't appear to be a factor in the drowning.