A body pulled from the Schuylkill River was officially identified yesterday as missing Engineering graduate student Anirban Majumdar, ending a two-week search for the 25-year-old native of Calcutta, India.
Authorities said that there were no immediate signs of foul play, and have not yet determined whether the death was a suicide or an accident.
According to officials, Majumdar's body was spotted on Sunday morning by a Philadelphia Marathon spectator standing on the nearby Girard Avenue Bridge.
"The body was recovered about 8:30 a.m. by the Philadelphia Police marine unit near West River Drive and the Spring Garden Bridge," Philadelphia Police Officer Carmen Torres said.
Majumdar, who was last seen on Nov. 2, the night of his birthday, was found with his PennCard on him and close to $20 in his pocket. While authorities recovered Majumdar's body and personal effects on Sunday, the official identification was not made until yesterday by the Philadelphia medical examiner's office.
Officials yesterday would not speculate on the circumstances surrounding Majumdar's death, only saying that the medical examiner had ruled the cause to be drowning.
"It was confirmed that [it] was the body of our student," University spokeswoman Phyllis Holtzman said shortly after she was notified of the examiner's findings yesterday afternoon. "The medical examiner's office reports that the post-mortem exam showed no evidence of trauma or foul play."
According to Pat Brennan, Penn's director of special services, the body's level of decomposition leads investigators to believe that the body may have been in the river for a considerable period of time, possibly since the day he disappeared.
Brennan added that the results of toxicology tests can be expected within the next four weeks.
"The purpose of the toxicology tests is to attempt to answer all the questions," Brennan said.
"The case is still under investigation," added Jeff Moran, a spokesman for the medical examiner's office.
Majumdar was reported missing on Nov. 5 by Engineering graduate student Narayanan Mahesh, one of his four roommates on the 4500 block of Locust Street.
That day, Majumdar was scheduled to give a class presentation and when he did not appear later that night, Mahesh called University Police.
"The news is terrible, that he's not there anymore," said Engineering graduate student Prasanna Chaporkar, another one of Majumdar's roommates. "I'm in a kind of shock."
University President Judith Rodin issued a brief statement yesterday, expressing sorrow on behalf of the Penn community.
"We are deeply saddened by this loss, and our hearts go out to Anirban's family, friends and classmates," Rodin said.
Majumdar's roommates and his family in India were notified of the discovery of a body fitting his description Sunday evening by University officials.
"They came over and told us [that] the police had found a body and it seems in all likelihood that it was him," Mahesh said. "He had his ID in his wallet [and] he had his backpack."
Yesterday, University Chaplain William Gipson contacted Majumdar's mother in India to tell her that the body had been positively identified.
According to Leah Smith, spokeswoman for the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life, School of Arts and Sciences adviser Srilata Gangulee translated Gipson's comments into Hindi.
Officials refused to speculate about what the next phase of the investigation would reveal. Determining whether his death was an accident or suicide, they said, will be difficult.
"The only thing we'll be able to tell at the end of the investigation is what didn't happen," Brennan said. "He could have jumped into the river... he could have slipped into the river."
"We will probably never know what happened," Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush added.
Despite all current evidence to the contrary -- according to Brennan, there were "no signs of struggle" -- Majumdar's roommates have found it hard to accept either an accident or a suicide as an explanation for their friend's death.
"If he knew he was going to do something in the night, then why did he have $20 in his pocket?" Mahesh said. "He had a daily routine."
According to Mahesh, who had seen his roommate the night of Nov. 2 at the Moore School building located at 230 S. 33rd St., Majumdar had said he would be home shortly.
Majumdar usually used PennTransit to go home, though the campus van service had no record of him riding that night.
"We are not convinced that it was a suicide," Chaporkar said. "We don't see any reason for Anirban to do so."
According to Smith, VPUL is coordinating a memorial service for Majumdar, but has not yet determined a date.
"We're working with Engineering and the Chaplain's office to prepare a memorial, but a date has not been set yet," Smith said.
Previous articles: 11/09/01 Engineering graduate student reported missing
11/13/01 Police still searching for missing student
11/15/01 Police search for leads in case of missing student
11/19/01 Body of missing grad student found in Schuylkill RiverComments powered by Disqus
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