A Boulder family is reeling from the untimely loss of a son and brother, but are determined to make sure that his kind, caring soul is remembered and the lessons from the texting and driving accident that took his life do not go unnoticed.Alex Heit grew up in Boulder, living with his parents and younger sister, Chloe Heit.
After graduating Fairview High School with honors in 2009, he enrolled at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where he was studying audiology. His dad, Steven Heit, said his interest in the science of hearing and balance was spurred by his grandfather's struggles with hearing loss.
"Alex was really looking for an opportunity to use his knowledge of biology and anatomy--he excelled in the sciences--to help people one on one," Steven Heit said. "He wanted to go into private practice."
Alex's professional aspirations were just an extension of his personality, according to his family.
"He was kind to people and all living things," his mother Sharon said. "He really longed for a more just world."
Alex's life was cut tragically short on the afternoon of April 3, when his car ran off the side of a road in northwest Greeley.
The road, known as "O" Street, had a very narrow, dirt shoulder, followed by a steep drop on the south side, according to officials with the Greeley Police Department who investigated the accident.
Alex was traveling eastbound through a turn when he began to drift into the oncoming lane. Witnesses reported he had his head down. When he looked up and realized he was near a car in the westbound lane, he jerked the wheel back to the right and his car left the south side of the roadway, rolling over as it went.
Alex was rushed to a nearby hospital, but it was too late. He was 22.
Inside the car, investigators found Alex Heit's cell phone, a partial response to a text he had just received was typed out on the screen, still waiting to be sent.
Alex had a spotless driving record and excessive speed did not factor into the accident, according to police.
While they are still struggling with the devastating loss, Alex's parents agreed to work with the Greeley police in using their son's story as a cautionary tale for others.
"I can't bear the thought of anyone else having to go through something like this," Sharon Heit said in a press release that has been widely distributed by the Greeley Police Department.
"Please vow to never, never text and drive. In a split second you could ruin your future, injure or kill others, and tear a hole in the heart of everyone who loves you. And in honor of Alex's memory please do something kind for a stranger who needs help, as Alex always wished for a world were people were kinder to each other."
In addition to his being a standout student at Fairview, the Heits noted that Alex was a Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks junior ranger, a volunteer for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley and at Boulder Community Hospital. He was also a lifeguard with Boulder Parks and Recreation and twice was involved in rescues, according to his family.
When asked if there was one memory of Alex that typified the way he lived his life, his father thought back to an event that happened just this winter when the family was skiing at Copper Mountain.
As the family prepared to make their first run, Steven Heit recalled, Alex spotted a white ferret that was writhing in the snow and appeared to be in distress. He immediately jumped off his snowboard and went over to the animal to check on it. He only agreed to leave its side and return to snowboarding after he had taken the time to build it a small nest to keep it warm.
"He was very concerned that all things treat each other well," his father said.
The Heit family is working to organize a reforestation/wildlands rebuilding project in Alex's honor. He loved the outdoors.
They had a first considered planting a tree to memorialize him, but decided something wider reaching was more appropriate.
"A forest planting or reforestation project really makes a difference... and making a difference is what he would have wanted," Sharon Heit said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.