It was the news his family was dreading — that a body pulled from the Providence River was that of their beloved Sunil Tripathi.
But on Thursday, Rhode Island authorities confirmed the Tripathi family’s worst fears: The remains belonged to Sunil, a bright 22-year-old missing student from Brown University whose name was wrongly linked to the Boston Marathon bombings amid wild speculation about who might have committed the terrorist acts.
“A forensic dental examination done this morning confirmed that the body found in the water of India Point Park in Providence as, in fact, that of 22-year-old Sunil Tripathi,’’ said Dara Chadwick, a Rhode Island Department of Health spokeswoman. “The cause of death is pending.”
Tripathi’s family members, who had launched an intensive campaign to find him, said in a statement today that they had received the tragic news.
“As we carry indescribable grief, we also feel incredible gratitude,” the family wrote. “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.”
Laura Lague, spokeswoman for the Providence police, said a Brown University rowing coach saw Tripathi’s body in the water and called police around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. She did not know long he had been in the water.
“There was no foul play,’’ Lague said.
The family was stunned like the rest of the world after the April 15 bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. But after the FBI released pictures of the bombing supects, people began using online sites such as Reddit and Twitter, wrongly—and widely—speculating that Sunil looked like one of the suspects.
The incident was unsettling to the Tripathi family, and it forced Reddit’s general manager to apologize to them.
Sunil, a philosophy student at Brown, was last seen March 15, police said.
After he disappeared, the family was determined that he be found. They joined the search, leaning on the help of friends and relatives to raise Sunil’s profie. They started a Facebook page, “Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi,’’ which had more than 11,000 likes.
“Our family has been working tirelessly looking night and day, looking everywhere for him,’’ said Sangeeta Tripathi, his sister, on CNN’s Piers Morgan show on Wednesday evening. “We were just praying that Sunil was OK.”
Her brother, Ravi, who also appeared on the show, said Sunil suffered from depression, although he was not clinically diagnosed.
The family “knew he had some problems with his mood,’’ Ravi told the CNN host.
In the statement today, the family asked for their privacy and urged the public to “exercise caution and treat human lives with delicacy.”
“This last month has changed our lives forever, and we hope it will change yours too,’’ the family wrote. “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.”