Patrick McNeill, 21, was last seen on the Upper East Side of New York City on February 16, 1997. He had been bar hopping with some friends, and one police source said he was incredibly drunk. He was last seen at 2nd Ave. and 92nd St. walking outside The Dapper Dog, where he left shortly before midnight. He had told friends he was tired and had an early class and would take the subway back to the Bronx campus. A friend said she would join him for the subway ride to Fordham's Rose Hill campus in the Bronx after she used the ladies room. He agreed to wait, but when she returned he was gone.
Search and Recovery
On Wednesday, February 26, 1997, the NY Times reported that more than 600 volunteers reported to the Port Chester Middle School auditorium in preparation for a massive search for Patrick McNeil. Westchester and New York City detectives said they've scoured hospitals, soup kitchens and even Rikers Island. Volunteers hung more than 10,000 flyers from the city to Yonkers.
Ultimately, Patrick McNeil was not seen again until April 7, 1997 when his body was found 11 miles down river floating near a pier in the East River near the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, over 12 miles from where he was last seen.
The medical examiner ruled Patrick's death an accidental drowning, adding that the young man had a moderate amount of alcohol in his blood but was not overly inebriated when he died. Dr. Charles Hirsch, the chief Medical Examiner, said his office does not release the precise numerical blood alcohol levels, which change depending on how long a person has been dead. But he said that the level of alcohol in the body of the student, Patrick McNeill Jr., was 'more than a little and less than a lot.' The final autopsy report also showed that Mr. McNeill suffered no broken bones, head trauma or other physical injuries, a finding that makes foul play less likely. He also showed no traces of drugs. What remains unclear is how Mr. McNeill, an athletic 21-year-old, wound up in the river and drowned. The manner of death was listed as undetermined in the autopsy report. The young man's body had been in the water since he disappeared, Dr. Hirsch said.
On May 31, 1998 it was reported that the owners of The Dapper Dog bar in Manhattan agreed to pay an $8,500 fine for serving alcohol Patrick McNeill. The Dapper Dog bar, at 1768 Second Avenue, now known as the Quiet Man under the corporate name of Rugby Joe's, had five charges pending against it -- including the sale of liquor to a minor, sale of liquor to a visibly intoxicated person and noise complaints -- reported Stephen D. Kalinsky, deputy counsel for the State Liquor Authority. The owners of the bar did not contest the charges and suggested the fine, Mr. Kalinsky said. Hearing rules permitted the owners to propose what the counsel called a 'fairly substantial fine.'
Mr. McNeill's family has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the bar, its owners, the bouncer and the bartender, who was a Fordham roommate of the drowned student. The lawsuit alleges that the parties knew Mr. McNeill was under the legal age to drink but served him alcohol even after he became so intoxicated that he fell down in the bathroom.
More about Patrick
Patrick volunteered for the Fordham Ambulance Corps in the Bronx. He was a junior at Fordham University studying accounting. He grew up in Port Chester, the second of three children, and was captain of Port Chester High School's football team. He worked driving a school van from the Fordham campus in the Bronx to the Lincoln Center campus. In his spare time, he booked acts for TOPS, a university entertainment lounge.
Detective Kevin Gannon, who initially worked on Patrick's case in 1997, subsequently formed an investigative team, Nationwide Investigations, to uncover more facts about Patrick's death. You can read their report here.
Name/age: Patrick McNeill, 21 (from Port Chester, NY)
College: Fordham University
Last Seen: 02/16/97, Dapper Dog bar (1768 2nd Avenue)
Physical Description: 6', 190 pounds, athletic (former football player). He was last seen wearing dark jeans, a green-and-white plaid shirt and brown engineer boots when last seen. His tongue is pierced with a silver stud, and he sports a Celtic cross tattoo on his right bicep.
Recovered: April 7, 1997, East River
Cause of death ruling: drowning
Manner of death ruling: accident
Blood-alcohol content: .16