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Body found in Hillsborough River is missing HCC student

Bruce Kevin Rivera, 19, was studying criminal justice and  working for a truck parts company.
Bruce Kevin Rivera, 19, was studying criminal justice and working for a truck parts company.
Published Sep. 8, 2015

TAMPA — When Bruce Kevin Rivera's family heard Monday morning an unidentified body had been found near the Sulphur Springs water tower in the Hills­borough River, they feared the worst.

Rivera, 19, had been missing since Saturday night when he left his grandmother's apartment near Busch Gardens to go buy a soda. Tampa police officials said he was last seen in Sulphur Springs.

"In our hearts we knew it was him because of where the body was found," Rivera's aunt, Jennifer Vazquez, said Monday evening outside the home of Rivera's grandmother. "Of course, we were all hoping it wasn't him, but in our hearts we knew."

An onlooker discovered Rivera's body and called 911 at 10:40 a.m. Monday, describing to dispatchers an unknown object floating in the river, said Andrea Davis, a Tampa police spokeswoman. Responding officers called in the dive team to investigate. Later Monday, detectives delivered the tragic news: the body matched the description of Rivera, Davis said.

Medical examiner officials won't conduct an official identification of the body or determine the cause of death until today. Davis said the body showed no obvious signs of trauma.

The Leto High School graduate was studying criminal justice as a freshman at Hillsborough Community College, Vazquez said.

"He talked about going into law, but one step at a time, he always said," his relative Olga Maldonado said.

Rivera had just moved out of his grandmother's home and into a place in Zephyrhills with his high school girlfriend. When he wasn't at school, he worked for FleetPride, a heavy duty truck parts company.

"He was doing a lot for himself," Vazquez said. "Make sure you tell everyone he was a good kid, with a good heart. He was naive. That's why he ended up where he ended up, because he was too good."

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or jsolomon@tampabay.com. Follow @josh_solomon15.

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