VENTNOR — High school students heading out for crew practice Friday afternoon discovered the body of a man who had been missing since he left a party almost three months ago.
Kennedy Rios, 21, vanished after leaving a poker party at a friend’s house about 12:30 a.m. Jan. 8. He had been drinking, friends said, and walked out into the single-digit weather without his cellphone, jacket, gloves or hat.
Surveillance video from a camera on the 5400 block of Ventnor Avenue showed Rios leaving the party. A police K-9 dog tracked his scent to Ski Beach, at the end of Dorset Avenue in Ventnor Heights. State Police divers found nothing, and the family asked people from the public to look for him.
Family members were overwhelmed by his discovery Friday.
“I don’t know what I’m feeling,” said his sister, Luz Rios.
His discovery about 4 p.m. came at the opposite side of Ventnor Heights, about 100 yards away from Edgewater and Surrey avenues, rattling the students who found Rios, and the several dozen students from Egg Harbor Township, Mainland Regional and Holy Spirit high schools who rowed past him.
“We were just rowing, and our boat rowed past what looked like a body, so we told our coaches and they called police,” Egg Harbor Township crew member Emily Mangel, 16, said afterward.
“Our coach had a feeling that that wasn’t just a rock, and he made us row the other way today,” added friend and fellow crew member Emily Autuore, 16.
“It was really upsetting,” Mangel said.
Egg Harbor Township crew coach Dan Welsh said the two crew members were in a different part of the waterway when the body was reported found. He said a Mainland coach told him about the discovery, and he called 911.
Police arrived quickly, he said, and did a good job keeping the kids away from the water.
Once they were back ashore, the students hosed down their boats and stored them. Students milled around the docks, talking with each other and calling friends and family on their cellphones.
As word spread, a small crowd gathered at the docks and farther down Surrey Avenue. Ventnor residents Bob Sterling, 56, his daughter Laura Sterling, 19, and her friend Megan Layden, 17, watched the crew boats return to shore, taking broad turns around the location of Rios’ body.
Laura Sterling said she had just talked with Luz Rios earlier this month. She said she wished the family well, and “we’re just keeping everyone in our prayers.”
A State Police boat soon arrived, and Rios’ body was taken out of the water about 5:45 p.m. The boat docked, and coaches ordered the students away from the docks and either into the boathouse or near an adjacent parking lot.
Police took the body off the boat. A waiting state Medical Examiner’s truck took him away for further investigation.
Staff Writers Elisa Lala and Lynda Cohen contributed to this report.
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