Investigation continues after body of missing UofSC found at nearby quarry

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Tuesday morning, the Richland County Coroner’s Office identified the body found at a quarry in downtown Columbia as the body of a University of South Carolina student reported missing over the weekend.

Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford said Tuesday the body belonged to 22-year-old Michael Keen. According to Rutherford, his body was found less than a mile from where he had been reported missing.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Michael’s family, the USC family, and all affected by this tragedy. Michael was expected to graduate from the University in the next 3 weeks,” said Rutherford. “His father referred to his son as his bestest buddy and his mother stated how she loves him very much. We are working with the Columbia Police Department to fully investigate this matter.”

A cause of death has not been released by the coroner’s office. Law enforcement discovered Keen’s body Monday afternoon after searching the area Sunday and Monday.

Keen is the second UofSC student found dead at the quarry since 2020. Back in October 2020, Samuel Laundon’s body was found at the quarry after friends and family reported him missing. An autopsy determined that Laundon died of blunt force trauma to the head and body.

Law enforcement said Laundon had hopped a fence at the Vulcan Materials quarry while walking home with friends.

Neighbors in the surrounding area told us people cut back through the quarry frequently. They believe security measures should be increased to prevent people from getting in so easily.

Tuesday UofSC Interim President Harris Pastides shared a message with the UofSC community. School officials said Keen and another graduate passed away this past week.

“With great sadness, I am writing to inform you of the deaths of two of our University of South Carolina students in the past week. Patricia and I extend our deep condolences to the family and friends of these two students – one an undergraduate, the other a graduate student – in the loss of their loved ones. Both of these deaths occurred off campus. 

It is always painful to lose a member of our Carolina family, and we know that some of you may wish to seek support during this difficult time. Please take advantage of the resources we have in place if you need grief support or counseling. You can reach out to one of our trained professionals, through the in-person or online mental health services that best meet your needs. Students can call 803-777-5223 for free, 24-hour access to a counselor. Faculty and staff can call the Employee Assistance Program at 800-633-3353 for free help 24 hours a day. Walk-in appointments are always available at the Counseling Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.”

Harris Pastides/Interim President, University of South Carolina

Vulcan Materials sent us a statement Tuesday afternoon. A spokesperson wrote:

“On behalf of all of the employees of Vulcan Materials Company, particularly those at Columbia, we would like to express our condolences to the friends and family of Micheal Keen.  This is indeed a tragedy that is all the more so at this time of year.  An investigation is ongoing as to the circumstances surrounding the tragedy so for specific information related to this incident I refer you to the police investigators.  

We make every effort to operate this site in a safe manner.  We utilize fencing, warning signs, berms and barbed wire to keep people out and warn them of the dangers.  In some areas we have two rows of fencing with barbed wire.  The buffer areas around the site are naturally wooded and allowed to grow thick to further discourage trespassing.  This is not a place where anyone should walk into without supervision and the appropriate training.”

The Columbia Police Department and Richland County Coroner’s Office are investigating the incident.

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