Austin Bice, whose body was found submerged in the Manzanares River in Madrid, Spain on March 8, 2011 about 900 feet south from the Sala La Riviera nightclub, located on Virgen del Puerto, where he had left friends at about 1:00 a.m. was described as the embodiment of love and a roll model for others, at a memorial service held at the San Dieguito United Methodist Church in Encinitas, CA on Sunday, March 20, 2011.
This dispatch contains first person accounts and original reporting. A memorial song for Austin Bice composed and performed by Teneia Sanders is included in the attached video clip, along with an expanded slide show which accompany this article.
The six foot 5 inch tall, 230 pound former San Diego State University (SDSU) football center was also called a “gentle giant” as friends and family remembered the Carlsbad, CA resident.
He was an honor student, star football player, loving son, brother, and a caring friend to many people. Austin was a mature and stable adult, who was admired by many people, and was described as “lighting up a room” with the warmth and energy of his personality by those who knew him well.
Bice, who was studying international business as an exchange student at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in a part of the city called Getafe, had been in Spain since January 15. He suddenly went missing on the morning of Saturday, February 26, 2011. His submerged body was located in a river 11 days later, after authorities had drained the shallow waterway and sent in divers.
The last person to see him alive was a fellow exchange student and friend, Alexander Fleming, who abruptly left Madrid to return to Australia shortly after Bice disappeared.
As described by Connor Fabiano, a close childhood friend of Austin Bice, who attended secondary and high school with him, and has known the Bice family for over 16 years, the memorial service was dignified, and packed to overflowing, with some seated in a nearby room.
According to Connor, “The football team was there, along with hundreds of others. The San Diego Free Masons were also there and they gave a special ceremony as Austin was the youngest San Diego Free Mason in about 160 years in the history of his Grand Lodge. The press was very respectful.”
Fabiano, who is an accomplished performer, and studied music at the University of Southern California (USC) played a medley of three songs.
In Connor’s own words, “At the beginning of the service, I played “Fire and Rain” (a folk/rock song written by James Taylor) on the piano; I played “Stairway to Heaven” (a song by the British rock band Led Zeppelin) on the acoustic guitar; and I played “Free Bird” (by the American southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd) on the acoustic guitar and sang “Free Bird” while the family entered. I also spoke, along with several other people.”
Outside the skies darkened with threatening clouds, as an intense storm drifted closer. It would later pour down a relentless cleansing torrent of heavy rain, but inside the chapel, the mood was uplifting and joyful, celebrating a life filled with love and concern for others, which has no doubt left a sudden and painful void in the many people whose lives Austin had touched.
A Memorial Trust in Austin Bice’s name has also been established to fund scholarships, with a portion dedicated and reserved for current and former servicemen and women, and may be accessed by anyone who wishes to make a contribution.
Austin’s body had arrived two days earlier from Spain, on Friday, March 18, after a court had ordered it released to the family. The results of toxicology tests and a full autopsy report are pending, and should be available in the next several weeks. An independent autopsy in San Diego will also be performed.
Questions persist on how and when Bice entered the Manzanares River, and what actually caused his demise.
There are unconfirmed reports involving a possible third party with European connections outside of Spain, who may have been involved in this suspicious incident. Sources close to the Bice family have confirmed that intense efforts are being made to resolve any unanswered issues and bring about closure.
We will continue to vigorously follow this matter, and report on any new information. Our condolences go out to the Bice family, and to all others who have been touched by this tragedy.
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