Costa Rican soccer player killed in crocodile attack after jumping into river


Teammates, family and friends gathered in a shocked community in Costa Rica this week to pay their respects to a soccer player who was killed on July 30 by a crocodile after he jumped into a river known to be a habitat for the reptiles.

Jesús “Chucho” Alberto López Ortiz, 29, who played for the local Deportivo Río Cañas soccer club, died Saturday after jumping from a bridge into the Cañas River in Santa Cruz, according to Costa Rican newspaper The Tico Times, which cited a local police official.

A tribute photo posted on social media by the Deportivo Río Cañas soccer club in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region shows the team’s player Jesus “Chucho” Alberto Lopez Ortiz, who was killed by a crocodile on July 29, 2023.

Facebook/Deportivo Rio Canas

The newspaper said witnesses reported seeing López Ortiz’s body being dragged underwater by the large reptile. 

Costa Rican police officials shot and killed the crocodile to recover Ortiz’s remains, a Costa Rican Red Cross spokesperson told the local news outlet.

Video posted on social media appeared to show the animal swimming in the river with López Ortiz’s body still clenched in its jaws, drawing a request from his team for any such clips to be removed.

“Please respect the family’s pain and do not upload videos of what happened, and if you have uploaded them, please take them down, as there are children, a mother, a father, brothers and Jesús’ wife who deserve respect,” the team said in a Wednesday post. 

A funeral procession was held for the player that same day. 

“Today we said goodbye to you Chucho,” his team said in a Facebook message on Wednesday, adding that about 1,000 people joined the memorial service, “representing all your friends, family, and the whole country that was there with you.” 

A crocodile swims in the Tarcoles River, the most polluted river in Central America, southwest of San Jose, Costa Rica, on November 21, 2022.
A crocodile swims in the Tarcoles River, southwest of San Jose, Costa Rica, November 21, 2022.

Ezequiel Becerra/AFP/Getty

Costa Rica is home to at least two types of crocodiles, including the American crocodile which is classed as an endangered species globally. It’s just one species from Costa Rica’s diverse wildlife, which draws thousands of tourists to the Central American nation every year.

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