MONTREAL – A Bishop’s University student died and another was injured after they both fell at a beach resort in the Dominican Republic while on spring break vacation over the weekend.
University officials said Ben Houtman, who was from Vancouver, died early Saturday morning. The other student has been hospitalized, the school said.
Houtman’s family said in a separate statement released Monday he was the victim of an accidental fall at the Hamaca Beach resort in Santo Domingo.
They remembered him as a “treasured young man who has left an indelible impression on all of our lives.”
“We are shattered and grieving the loss of our only son, Ben,” the statement read. “At the same time we are truly grateful for the overwhelming support and love we have received from friends and family.
Houtman, 21, was part of a group of 30 students from the Sherbrooke, Que. university who left Friday for a spring break trip to the Caribbean.
The trip wasn’t organized by the university, where Houtman had been a student at the Williams School of Business since 2014.
“It was an unfortunate accident that could have happened anytime, anywhere,” his parents said. “Ben was enjoying himself in the prime of his life. He loved travel, camping, sports and music and especially loved bringing people together.”
Friend and roommate James Huxham, who was with Houtman in the Dominican Republic, remembered him as “the glue that held a massive group of friends that stretch across Canada and the world.”
In a text message, Huxham said Houtman enriched the lives of many by making them feel comfortable and safe.
“Whether it was a smile, a kind word, or a hug, he always made lifelong connections,” Huxham said.
Principal Michael Goldbloom said the institution is offering support and counselling to anyone who may need it.
“We know that this tragedy will be deeply felt by many members of our community,” Goldbloom wrote in a statement to the university community on Sunday.
“Ben was a very thoughtful and positive person with a wide circle of friends. He loved bringing people together and ensuring that no one felt excluded.”
Global Affairs Canada said they are working with local authorities to get more information about what happened.
“Canadian officials in Santo Domingo and in Ottawa are providing consular assistance to the families and to the injured Canadian,” said spokesman Philip Hannan.
The university said it plans to hold a vigil for Houtman when classes resume.