Body found in quarry confirmed to be USC student, Richland County coroner says

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The Richland County Coroner’s Office confirmed the body found at Vulcan Quarry was missing University of South Carolina student Michael Keen.

The 22-year-old’s body was discovered less than a mile from where he was reported missing, Coroner Naida Rutherford said Tuesday.

The coroner’s office did not release a cause of death.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Michael’s family, the USC family, and all affected by this tragedy,” Rutherford said in a news release. “Michael was expected to graduate from the university in the next three weeks.”

The body was found Monday at Vulcan Quarry in Richland County, said Columbia Police Department Capt. Earle Marsh.

USC student Michael Benjamin Keen was reported missing by the Columbia Police Department.
USC student Michael Benjamin Keen was reported missing by the Columbia Police Department.

Police began searching that area Sunday after Keen was reported missing, and continued on Monday.

Around midday, police called for State Law Enforcement Division to fly over the area in a helicopter.

“As soon as the pilot got over the area, he saw what he thought was a body at the bottom of the quarry,” Columbia Police Deputy Chief Melron Kelly said.

The deputy chief said officers headed to the bottom of the quarry on four-wheelers, where it was confirmed to be a body, Kelly said.

Keen was last heard from when he called his father Saturday night and said he was about to walk home from J’s Corner Restaurant & Bar, according to police. That’s on Rosewood Drive, near the South Carolina State Fairgrounds and Williams-Brice Stadium, where the Gamecocks beat the Auburn Tigers Saturday night.

J’s Corner is about a 3-5 minute walk from Keen’s residence, police said.

Before he went missing, Keen told his father his cellphone was dying, according to police.

Keen’s father did not heard from his son since that call and reported him missing Sunday, saying he was concerned for his son’s well-being and safety, according to police.

His father referred to his son as his “bestest buddy” and his mother said “how she loves him very much,” the coroner’s office said.

Keen was a senior majoring in finance in the Darla Moore School of Business, USC spokesman Jeff Stensland told The State. Keen was scheduled to graduate in December.

His death continues to be investigated by police and the coroner’s office.

A memorial scholarship has been established at the University of South Carolina in the name of Sam Laundon, a student who recently died.
A memorial scholarship has been established at the University of South Carolina in the name of Sam Laundon, a student who recently died.

Keen is the second USC student found dead in the quarry in little more than a year.

In October 2020, the body of Samuel Laundon was found in the Vulcan Materials Company quarry.

The 19-year-old USC student died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head and body, the coroner’s office said at the time.

The Cary, North Carolina, native was last seen by friends jumping a fence at the Vulcan Materials quarry. Laundon was walking home with friends when they got lost, and he jumped the fence in an effort “to reach his destination faster,” the Richland County Sheriff’s Department said.

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