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Body of missing student found, family and friends hope to raise awareness

David Bruenig's body was found of Friday, April 21 after going missing on
David Bruenig’s body was found on Friday, April 22 after going missing on Feb. 26. Photo courtesy of Alec Hazlewood.

The body of a man was brought ashore from the Penobscot River in Hampden around 6:15 p.m. on Friday. The body was confirmed on April 27 to be that of David Breunig, a 21-year-old Maine Maritime Student from Westbrook, Maine, who went missing in Orono on Feb. 26.

David Breunig was last seen leaving a party on Crosby Street and heading towards a railroad bridge that crosses Stillwater River, which runs into the Penobscot.

The Maine Warden Service released a statement on Wednesday confirming the identity of Bruenig, but two days before, David Breunig’s parents, Elaine and David Breunig, stated that they had no doubt that it was their son’s body during a telephone interview with the Portland Press Herald on Monday evening.

According to Elaine Breunig, the body had her son’s clothes and wallet and matched his physical description.

The family also released an obituary on Monday which stated that David Breunig “passed away after an accidental drowning” and that “he was found Friday, April 22, 2016.”

“My son went missing because he fell in the river,” Emily Breunig said in the Press Herald interview. “I want people to know that accidents happen and it could happen to them.”

David Breunig was known to his friends and loved ones as “DJ.” David Breunig was on the dean’s list at Maine Maritime Academy, where he was a junior student in marine engineering technology.

“Though we are in sorrow now, we will continue to persevere as David would have us do,” Dr. William J. Brennan, the president of Maine Maritime Academy stated in an email to the MMA community. “We will hold him in our hearts as a member of the extended Maine Maritime Academy family forever more.”

Jack Keegan, a friend of David Breunig from Westbrook, Maine, made a viral Facebook post pleading with community members to avoid the railroad bridge.

“Every time you cross that bridge you are playing a game of odds,” his Facebook post reads. “You’re playing a game of chance. That is not worth shaving off those 15 extra minutes it takes to get to the bars or to that party across the river.”

“I thought nothing of him walking to the bars alone because I have seen many kids do that before,” Alec Hazlewood, a University of Maine student and another friend of David Breunig, said on Tuesday afternoon. “DJ was a very athletic and strong male and he still managed to fall and never make it back.”

Hazlewood hopes that sharing the story of this tragedy will prevent students and community members from taking the shortcut across the railroad bridge ever again.

“Me, my friends, DJ’s family, and my community have been living a nightmare these last two months,” Hazlewood stated. “This Friday, I am going to my best friend’s funeral.”

Visiting hours for David Breunig will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday at the Westbrook High School auditorium and will be open to the public. A memorial mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday at St. Hyacinth Church in Westbrook, Maine.

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