Body found in Sampit River is missing NC man

  • Saturday, February 8, 2014

Keith Sullivan

Ronnie Campbell - owner of Tow Boat U.S. - had been friends with Keith Edward Sullivan, 45, of Emerald Isle, North Carolina for more than six years.

So when Campbell came across a body in the river near the foot of St. James Street at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, he said he knew it was Sullivan, who had been missing from his boat that been anchored between Front Street and Goat Island.

“I know it was him,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s belief was confirmed Monday.

Coroner Kenny Johnson said x-rays provided by Sullivan’s family were compared with surgical scars on the body and provided proof it was Sullivan who was found.

An autopsy showed cause of death as an accidental drowning.

Campbell said because Sullivan was his friend, he has been looking for him every day since he was reported missing Jan. 12.

Sullivan had been living on his sailboat “Saga.”

He was last seen Jan. 12 by some friends from Canada, who were also visiting the area.

Campbell said there were reports some people heard Sullivan yelling for help around the time he went missing.

He said it appears Sullivan somehow made it to Goat Island and then stripped off all of his clothes except his underwear and tried to swim back to his boat. Campbell said it is unknown if Sullivan fell off his boat or his dinghy.

He said weather may have played a role in the incident because the water temperature in mid-January was in the middle 40s.

“I found him about 300 yards from where his boat had been anchored,” Campbell said. “I am hoping this will help bring closure to the family.”

Cuthbertson said the body was turned over to the U.S Coast Guard.

Along with the dental comparison, Johnson said an autopsy will be performed to see if it can be determined what happened to cause Sullivan — a boater with more than 20 years of experience — to end up in the water.

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