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After five-week search, community mourns loss of Shane Montgomery

 Shane Montgomery went missing early Thanksgiving Day. On Saturday, his body was pulled from the Schuylkill. (Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Police)

Shane Montgomery went missing early Thanksgiving Day. On Saturday, his body was pulled from the Schuylkill. (Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Police)

Beneath the vaulted arches of Manayunk’s St. John the Baptist Church, parishioners prayed for the broken-hearted.

The peaceful moment during Sunday mass was fitting for a tight-knit community now mourning the loss of one of its own after a five-week nightmare. 

Less than 24-hours before residents slid into St. John’s dark wooden pews, a team of volunteer divers found missing college student Shane Montgomery in the murky waters of the Schuylkill River.

“We just are really sad for his family. It’s a shame,” said Kim Smith after the service, her four young children huddled around her.

Joe Doroba’s eyes said the same, but, like others, he was also relieved that the painful search was finally over.

“It’s closure and that’s the best thing that the family could have,” he said.

Montgomery, a Roxborough native, was discovered just after noon on Saturday in a frigid swath just feet from the Manayunk Brewery. The restaurant sits near the intersection of Main Street and Shurs Lane and down the street from the bar the 21-year-old wandered away from early Thanksgiving Day.

Members of the Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit had been fanning the Schuylkill for more than three hours before a diver’s hand shot into the air and closed out the search.

“The family responded with the news that Shane was found exactly like they should,” said Capt. Gerry Boylan, who heads the New Jersey-based squad.

“They were extremely distraught because the doubt was taken away. The possibility that Shane was alive was removed.”

Montgomery’s family did briefly address reporters on Saturday before asking for space — and time — to mourn.

“Today we have done what we promised. We found and brought Shane home,” they wrote on their Facebook page, Help Find Shane Montgomery.

“We want to thank the Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit, Philadelphia Marine Unit, Northwest Detectives, the Philadelphia Police Department, Saint John the Baptist, Mike Rose and the Brew Pub and their employees. We want to thank everyone for their support, prayers, and love and ask that they continue to pray for our family at this trying time.”

Montgomery vanished Nov. 27 after leaving Kildare’s Irish Pub on Main Street around 2 a.m., according to police.

Little evidence surfaced afterwards.

Philadelphia police and FBI agents interviewed neighbors. The Philadelphia Police Department’s Marine Unit methodically combed the Manayunk Canal. Week after week, neighbors roamed the area.

None of it turned up any helpful forensic evidence.

Eventually, the search zeroed in on the Schuylkill. Surveillance footage recovered from a nearby nail salon showed Montgomery walking near a footpath a parking lot away from a steep riverbank.

On Dec. 21, divers with the Garden State unit found Montgomery’s keys in the water.

“We completed our mission,” said Boylan. “Unfortunately, the bad side of that is in order for us to be out there there’s a family with a loss.”

The Montgomery family is holding viewings on Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Friday at 9 a.m. at St. John the Baptist Church in Manayunk. The funeral mass will be at 10 a.m. on Friday.

The family is requesting any donations in Shane Montgomery’s name be made to the Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit or to Friends of St. John the Baptist.

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