VENTNOR — About 100 friends and family of Kennedy Rios gathered Wednesday for a memorial service near the site where his body was found in the waters of Inside Thorofare.

Mourners lit and held candles, and a large basket of flowers was placed at the center of the gathering near the boathouse at Calvert and Surrey avenues. A smaller basket lay at the end of the dock with a picture of the 21-year-old Rios, along with lillies and candles that were intended to be placed in the water.

His sister, Luz, reminded the young adults and teens there to not let his death be in vain and to never leave a party alone.

Rios was reported missing after he left a party after midnight Jan. 8. Police said he left all of his belongings, including a cellphone and jacket, and wandered onto the road alone in single-digit weather.

“There are so many what-ifs of what I would have done if I had been there,” Luz said. “If I had known where he was, I would have driven around. If I saw him leave, I would have told him to put on his coat.”

Soon after he was reported missing, family and friends began their own search for him and posted signs to ask if anyone had seen him.

Emergency response teams searched the floor of the bay using sonar equipment but did not find his body.

Rios’ body was discovered Friday near a boathouse being used by crew teams from Egg Harbor Township, Mainland Regional and Holy Spirit high schools.

Luz Rios told those gathered Wednesday that her brother is in a better place and that they all have an angel watching over them.

“He’s never going to age. He’ll always be the same young guy in your mind,” she said.

Contact Anjalee Khemlani:

609-272-7247

@AnjKhem on Twitter

Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.