A body pulled out of the water earlier this week in Providence, R.I., has now been identified as that of 22-year-old Sunil Tripathi, a Brown University student who had been missing since March 15.
Tripathi’s death is national news because of the way his name mistakenly — and irresponsibly — got linked to the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon. The body was identified by Rhode Island Health Department officials, The Providence Journal reports.
He was found Tuesday by members of the Brown University crew team, Fox News says, in water off the city’s India Point Park. A cause of death has yet to be determined. It isn’t yet known how long he had been dead.
As NPR’s Steve Henn and The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal have detailed, when the New York Post published its infamous “Bag Men” front-page headline and photograph last week, that image of two young men who the tabloid said authorities wanted to talk to about the bombings set off wild speculation. Self-appointed social media sleuths on Reddit, 4chan and other forums went to work trying to figure out who they were. It turned out that those young men, neither of whom were Tripathi, had nothing to do with the bombings.
But unfortunately, as Madrigal wrote earlier this week, “people started to develop this theory that Sunil Tripathi was one of the bombers.” Previously published stories about Tripathi’s disappearance and his vague resemblance to one of the young men in the photo apparently led some to connect dots that should not have been connected.
That caused even more grief for an already suffering family. Steve reported that news trucks showed up at the Tripathis’ home. “We hope that this doesn’t happen again to somebody else,” said the young man’s sister, Sangeeta Tripathi.
Now the family knows their loved one has been found, though the news isn’t what they had hoped. On Thursday, the family posted an incredibly generous statement on the “Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi” Facebook page they created:
“As we carry indescribable grief, we also feel incredible gratitude. To each one of you–from our hometown to many distant lands–we extend our thanks for the words of encouragement, for your thoughts, for your hands, for your prayers, and for the love you have so generously shared.
“Your compassionate spirit is felt by Sunil and by all of us.
“This last month has changed our lives forever, and we hope it will change yours too. Take care of one another. Be gentle, be compassionate. Be open to letting someone in when it is you who is faltering. Lend your hand. We need it. The world needs it.
“The Tripathi Family”