Natural Resources Wildlife Ecology Major Eric Duffey went missing late on Friday night; a Fire Department diving team found him in the Plover River on Sunday.
Stevens Point Sgt. Dan Wheeler said they pulled a body from the river near Clark Street Bridge around 1:10 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, not far from where Duffey was last seen. His body was later identified by family in the coroner’s office.
Duffey was out on Friday night celebrating his 21st birthday with friends when he was reported leaving Joe’s Bar alone to head home, as he needed to wake up early for a day with his parents.
Sgt. Wheeler told the Associated Press that a male witness had come forward, claiming he heard calls for help coming from the river at around 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, but failed to find anyone when he checked.
Stevens Point Assistant Police Chief Brian Kurdonowicz said that the department had received information that Duffey had walked down to the river. That was probably the last time he was seen.
The discovery of Duffey’s body happened after Kurdonowicz had called off the extensive neighborhood search that included nearly 150 volunteers and tracking dogs. The search occurred throughout the weekend, and included many students, community members, and UWSP administrators.
“The campus response has been incredible,” said Zachary Kleeman, a close friend and roommate. Search teams checked back yards, knocked on doors showing residents pictures of Duffey and asked that they keep a look out for any evidence of his location. “The outpouring of support from friends, neighbors and complete strangers has been amazing,” Kleeman said.
Investigators think that the Fitchburg native was either heading to his own home or the home of his girlfriend when he fell into the river. “I think alcohol had something to do with his actions,” Kurdonowicz said, although police do not suspect foul play.
Duffey was active in several intramural sports, as well as a highly dedicated student. His accomplishments included those as member of the Wildlife Society, where he helped to found; in that role, he was leader of an upcoming project on ruffed grouse, according to Kleeman.
“If I had to sum up Eric in one word, it would have to be ‘goofball.’ He was always trying to make others laugh, smile, or just feel better. I don't know if I've ever met a bigger practical joker,” Kleeman said. “Eric also was a very passionate outdoorsman, and enjoyed hunting, fishing, camping and canoeing.”
Kleeman shared a personal memory of Duffey, who he referred to as “one of my best friends.”
“There are so many goofy, crazy, and just plain weird memories of Eric that I could probably spend all week listing, but here's a good one: We were spending a weekend at a friend's cabin with several people, and he wanted to be the cool guy who swam out to the floating slide in the dark. While Eric was playing it up, I pushed him off the dock, fully clothed. Instead of getting angry, or trying to pull me in, he proceeded to remove all his clothes and swim out butt naked. He even went down the slide when he got there,” Kleeman said.
The Office of Student Affairs would like to remind students that are in need of support that they welcome any student to visit their office in Old Main or contact them at 715-346-2481 and can also contact the Student Counseling staff located in Delzell Hall or call at 715-346-3553.