Freak Accident Claims Heidi Montag's Stepbrother
updated 03/03/2008 AT 01:00 PM EST
•originally published 03/03/2008 AT 11:15 AM EST
O'Hara died Thursday at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel in Steamboat Springs, after he slipped off a sloped roof while attempting to remove snow.
"Losing my brother, at an early age, is such a tragedy," The Hills star, 21, said in a statementment released through her rep.
"I just loved him more than anything," Montag's statement continued. "He was just so patriotic. He really wanted to go to Iraq and help and do all that he could for his country. He felt like it was his duty. I'll really miss him."
"Having made it through 15 months in Iraq, and then to have this happen," said his uncle, Dave Patston, "it's really tough," reports the News.
"Everyone loved him," O'Hara's grandmother, Dolores Spurgeon, also told the paper (via TMZ). "I never met a person who did not love him."
She added that O'Hara's colonel in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Tikrit, Iraq, called to say, "Eric was the most remarkable young man he'd ever worked with, a born leader."
He felt a call to duty, his grandmother also said, because "He'd been in and out of [New York's] Twin Towers when he was little. His father was a stockbroker and had offices there."
Their destruction, she said, "just gnawed at him. He decided, 'I need to go to defend my country.' "
Heidi's father, Bill Montag, is married to O'Hara's mother Terri, both of whom survive Eric, as do his father, two sisters, another stepsister (Holly Montag), his grandmother and other relatives.