The home of Mike Laitala, the head coach at Longhorn Aquatics in Austin, Texas, and his wife Bridgette, the club’s assistant director, burned down on Thursday evening while they were at the Texas Swim Center conducting practice. The couple’s dogs, Buddy and Cissy, died in the fire.
According to a GoFundMe started by Bridgette Laitala’s sister Kelly Sieber, police believe that an electrical fire in the kitchen pantry caused the fire.
“Buddy and Cissy meant everything to them and were considered children,” Sieber said on the GoFundMe page.
So far, $32,595 has been raised out of a $35,000 goal. Among the names on the donation list are several well-known coaches from around the state and country, former Texas All-Americans, generous donations from current University of Texas coaches, and several large anonymous donations.
Laitala has been the full-time head coach of Longhorn Aquatics since 2012, when the club removed the “interim” tag from him. He spent the previous 3 years as the program’s associate head coach.
Prior to arriving in Austin, he had coaching stops at the University of North Texas and the University of Denver. He was an All-American swimmer at the University of Texas.