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Cause of death still unknown for man, 19, found in Hillsborough River

Bruce Kevin Rivera,19, of Zephyrhills was found in the Hillsborough River on Monday. [Photo courtesy of Tampa Police]

TAMPA — Four days after Bruce Rivera's body was pulled from the Hillsborough River, investigators still haven't determined what killed him — an accident or foul play.

Tampa police spokesman Stephen Hegarty said Friday that investigators were waiting for the results from a preliminary autopsy report from the medical examiner's office on the death of Rivera, a 19-year-old from Zephyrhills who was attending Hillsborough Community College.

Rivera left his grandmother's apartment near Busch Gardens the night of Sept. 5 to buy soda and never returned. His body was found two days later near the Sulphur Springs water tower in the Hillsborough River.

If detectives determine foul play was involved, their inquiry will turn into a homicide investigation.

"With any investigation, you have to put all of the facts together," police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said Thursday. "And we don't have all of those facts yet. One big piece of that puzzle is the determination from the medical examiner."

Dick Bailey, operations manager with the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office, said he could not specify a cause or manner of death for Rivera and that additional tests were necessary.

Kristina Castilow, 20, Rivera's girlfriend of two years, said she knew something was wrong when a string of calls and text messages went unanswered for an entire night and into the morning.

"We're desperately looking for you. Can you please call or text us? Please tell me you are OK," she said in one message to his phone.

"I promise not to give up. Today is the day we are going to find you! I'm so sorry. Hold up in there. I love you," read another.

Castilow was searching near Sulphur Springs Park sometime Monday, she said, when a deputy called her and insisted she return to Rivera's grandmother's house with the rest of the family.

When she arrived, their screams inside told her what she said she feared the most.

Were they sure, she asked? Could he be revived?

In the days after Rivera's body was recovered, Castilow said she tried to remember him as a compassionate boyfriend and thoughtful classmate.

"If you ask him to join you in something, even if he knows you may not be the best company, he was just not the person to say 'no,' she said. "He'll take his shirt off his back even if you were bad company for him."

Contact Michael Majchrowicz at (813) 226-3374 or mmajchrowicz@tampabay.com. Follow @mjmajchrowicz.

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