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Morbid Discoveries Near the East Bank
Photo by Tanner Boriack / Unsplash

Morbid Discoveries Near the East Bank

While following along with the despairing case of Riley Strain, Nashville discovers the underbelly of the Cumberland river.

As the ongoing search for missing University of Missouri student Riley Strain continues, the discovery of an unidentified body in the Cumberland River on Sunday has left Nashvillians with more questions than they bargained for.

“...Apparently, bodies are just floating down the Cumberland like fish,” Jason Steen, editor of Scoop Nashville, posted on X. “How does this even happen so frequently that a couple a week doesn't sound any alarm bells?

“This keeps happening simply because of [the] lack of the surveillance cameras mounted on the river banks, and on top of that, the water police stopped patrolling the river,” commented one user. 

“If they are from the unhoused communities along the river rather than 22-year-old college kids with financial planning internships, I think you know the answer to that question,” insinuated another.

Bodies surfacing near the East Bank is morbid, and it does happen more than one might think. I myself have found a body floating down the Cumberland River, seven years ago while overlooking the waterfront from my backyard. I called it in at dusk. Despite the sharp turn that creates a catchall where the river bends near the East Bank, the detective I talked to told me that had the body gone unnoticed overnight, it might have traveled several miles by morning.

After the body was taken to the medical examiner to be identified, I scanned newspapers for weeks in search of more information. But, as with most of these incidents, the case wasn’t extraordinary enough to warrant coverage. I never found out the story behind the body. The chatter following last week’s events is a chilling reminder of how common these incidents are, and how often they escape notice.


Considering the anticipated East Bank Development will cozy up to the river’s edge, it’s reasonable to predict that these types of incidents might attract additional attention and become more prominent in the public consciousness. During the media round table last Friday, I asked Bob Mendes, the at-large council member- turned- Metro Chief Development Officer, about this possibility.

“I mean, these things are critically important,” he said. “And anywhere where you attempt to city build, you know, there'll be city problems and city opportunities. So we're trying to keep our eye on as many unforeseen circumstances as we can.”

Another reporter followed up on my question, and mentioned Downtown’s homeless population and their encampments entrenched near the riverfront area. Specifically, she asked how Metro plans to prevent the new Imagine East Bank green spaces from suffering the struggles we’ve seen in Brookmeade Park.

“Well, to start… it's hard to blame people who don't have a home to try to find a quiet place to sleep,” Mendes said. “And having the basic humanity of addressing their needs, [first] and foremost, is obviously on the administration's mind. We have got robust efforts to address the needs of people who are experiencing homelessness that are going on separate from development on the East Bank.”