From The Day:
Norwich — The body of a man fitting the description of Norwich Community Development Corp. President Jason Vincent was recovered about noon Monday from the New River in West Virginia.
The recovery was made near a dam some five miles from the iconic U.S. Route 19 bridge in the New River Gorge National Park, where Vincent's vehicle was discovered last Wednesday about 11:30 p.m.
National Parks Service Park Ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk said Monday the body was discovered by employees of the Hawk’s Nest Dam.
An official identification is pending by the West Virginia State Medical Examiner’s Office. No foul play was suspected, Perkowski-Sisk said. Vincent’s family has been notified.
West Virginia law only allows for the release of autopsy information to next of kin and law enforcement officials, Andrea Lannom, public information officer for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services said in an email response Monday evening.
Earlier Monday, Perkowski-Sisk said the National Parks Service and the Fayette County Sheriff's office responded to a report of a vehicle abandonded on the bridge at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 30. Vincent's car was parked at the side of the road in the middle of the New River Gorge Bridge, which carries the four-lane U.S. Route 19 over the river. The bridge is 876 feet above the river.
Perkowski-Sisk said "personal documents" pertaining to Vincent were found in the vehicle. She could not specify what the documents were. There were no witnesses.
National Parks Service rangers and the Fayette County Sheriff's office conducted a foot search of the immediate area that night and started a search of the river by boat the next morning. The daytime searches continued by boat into Monday.
Vincent's family declined to comment Monday evening.
Vincent's disappearance and the discovery of a body has shocked Norwich city officials and leaders at NCDC. Several city officials said they knew of no reason why Vincent would travel to the New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia. Vincent had been on vacation since shortly before Christmas and was due back to work at NCDC on Monday.
Mayor Peter Nystrom called Vincent "irreplaceable" Monday. Nystrom choked up discussing the situation, but said he would reserve commenting in depth until receiving official notification.
"My heart and prayers go out to his family," Nystrom said.
Nystrom called for a moment of silence at the start of Monday's City Council meeting "on behalf of our friend, Jason Vincent, and his family."
Vincent has played the lead role in the city's effort to help local businesses get through the COVID-19 pandemic, hosting webinars for restaurants, hair salons and other businesses. Vincent also provided pop-up tents and worked with the city's Public Works Department to block off sections of downtown streets to allow outdoor dining.
On Dec. 21, the City Council named NCDC as the administrator of a $219,000 federal community development block grant allocated to assist local businesses with COVID-19 safety protocols. NCDC has applied for a second $200,000 grant to continue that program.
Robert Buckley, chairman of the NCDC Board of Directors, said he too was awaiting official notification from authorities or Vincent's family before commenting on his disappearance.
Buckley said in the interim, NCDC will continue to function, with community manager Mary Riley and executive assistant Lee Ann D'Ambrosio staffing the office. Buckley said he would be active as chairman as well.
Vincent, who is also a partner in the downtown brewery Epicure Brewing, had not responded to numerous calls and text messages to his cellphone made by several Norwich city officials since they learned of his disappearance Friday evening. More recent calls received a message that Vincent's voicemail box is full. Vincent also has not responded to calls made by city officials and others since just before Christmas.
Vincent was also well known in Stonington, where he worked as director of planning from 2002 to 2007 and again from 2016 to 2019. He resigned in October 2019 to work for NCDC.