PHILADELPHIA — The search for a St. Joseph’s University freshman who was reported missing in Bermuda over the weekend ended Monday afternoon when his body was found in a moat outside a historic fort, police said.
Several hundred St. Joseph’s students and staff members learned of 19-year-old Mark Dombroski’s death at the university’s chapel, where they had gathered to pray for his safe return. As the vigil ended, many of those who poured out cried and embraced one another.
“There’s deep grief,” said Mary Brown, a Latin professor who went to the vigil to support her students. “Everyone’s very, very shaken by the loss.”
Dombroski, of Media, traveled to the British island territory last week for a rugby tournament with other members of the St. Joseph’s team. He was last seen on video footage at 1:15 a.m. Sunday about a mile and a half from a bar he had left an hour earlier.
James Howard, acting assistant commissioner of Bermuda Police Services, said foul play had not been ruled out. He said an autopsy would be performed to determine a cause of death. Dombroski’s body was found in a wooded area less than 300 yards from a police station and about a half-mile from the stadium where the tournament was held.
“We continue to appeal for witnesses and anyone with information on the last known whereabouts of 19-year-old Mark Dombroski,” Howard said.
Dombroski’s parents had accompanied the team on the trip. On Monday, his mother, Lisa, joined by her husband, John, and their other two sons, had pleaded for anyone with information to contact authorities “and help bring our son back.”
“We dearly love our son. We cherish our son,” she said. “My other sons, my husband, we love him dearly. We want him back.”
Police said Dombroski did not appear to have been inebriated when he went missing.
“There’s no information to suggest, at the moment, that he himself was intoxicated or that alcohol is a part,” Detective Sgt. Jason Smith said. “The inquiry so far hasn’t led us to believe that.”
Police said Dombroski had been with teammates at the Dog House, a bar on the waterfront in Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital. He left shortly after midnight. At 1:09 a.m. he was spotted nearby on surveillance camera video. At 1:15 a.m. another camera recorded him using his cellphone on Middle Road, about 1.5 miles from the Dog House, police said.
His family reported him missing at 9:39 a.m. Sunday. The family was scheduled to return home later that day.
Lisa Dombroski said she believed her son had decided to call it a night before his friends. She said he had hurt his shoulder in the tournament and could be seen in the surveillance footage “favoring his arm.”
“He wasn’t enjoying the party atmosphere as some of the boys were,” she said. “My assessment is he wanted to get going. I think he probably wanted to get back to where they were staying. I think possibly others wanted to stay longer.”
The search was extensive. Police said they checked every public CCTV on the 20.5-square-mile island. A marine unit searched Hamilton’s harbor. Two teams fanned out over the Bermuda Arboretum, a 22-acre national park. Civilians donated drones to the cause.
Eleven members of the St. Joseph’s rugby team, one coach, and four parents traveled to the island on Wednesday for the Ariel Re Bermuda International 7’s Tournament. The Philadelphia university has participated in the tournament for the last several years. Matches are held in the National Sports Centre, just outside Hamilton.
St. Joseph’s officials learned that Dombroski was missing about 10:15 a.m. Sunday. The team’s coach stayed to help in the search efforts while the rest of the team returned to Philadelphia on Sunday.
After Monday’s vigil at the university, 19-year-old Nick Filardo, a freshman, struggled to fight back the tears. He said he knew Dombroski through his roommate, a rugby player.
“Mark was just a really positive kid,” he said.
“What’s really important right now is staying positive the way he would,” he added. “A community staying together in a time of need.”
Mark C. Reed, the university’s president, said Monday had “been a day of hoping and praying and worrying, not just as a college president … but also as a parent.” He said the chapel would remain open and counseling services would be available to students.
He said he had told students, “Prayer sometimes is a mystery to us. We don’t always understand it. … But God knows what we’re thinking. God knows what’s in our heart. I told them to lean on God, as well as each other, at a time like this.”
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