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Nantucket stunned by drowning of man who dived from building

Corey Griffin (left) with his family.

Corey Griffin (left) with his family.

NANTUCKET — Residents and business owners on this vacation island remained distraught Monday, two days after 27-year-old Corey Griffin, who had just raised $100,000 to fight ALS, died in what was ruled an accidental drowning.

Under pleasant summer skies Monday, tourists shuttled to and from ferries and strolled around the Nantucket Boat Basin, dining, shopping at small waterside stores, and relaxing as they gazed out at stunning views.

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But many people could not help but dwell on what happened early Saturday morning, when Griffin drowned after diving into the water from the “Juice Guys” building on Straight Wharf around 2 a.m., according to police.

“I just feel horrible,” said Michael Campbell, 38, who owns Nantucket Ice Cream, the business that leases space in the building from which authorities have said Griffin jumped. “To hear all of his backstory and how he and his dad were so into fund-raising, it’s been so really sad and moving.”

Campbell said many people have come by the shop to pay their respects. He saw a woman stop there Sunday to lay flowers. On Monday, a blue-and-purple hydrangea was taped to a wooden post next to where Griffin is believed to have jumped.

On Monday night, dozens of people walked past the spot where Griffin is believed to have jumped, often looking at the flowers left there, at the water, and craning their necks to look up at the roof of the building.

He had just raised $100,000 for his friend Pete Frates, who has ALS and has been at the center of the viral “Ice Bucket Challenge” project to raise money and increase awareness of the disease.

Griffin was on Nantucket to continue raising money and planned to host a fund-raiser on Saturday night at the Chicken Box, a bar on the island.

That event was canceled after his death, according to bartender Tiffany Lee, who said the owner of the establishment was a close friend of Griffin’s. “He’s pretty devastated,” Lee said.

Jumping from the “Juice Guys” building has long been a tradition, locals said. But no one could recall anyone getting hurt making the leap.

Residents said young people have often climbed a set of stairs on the building and then onto a series of roofs to reach the top, which is about 2½-
stories high. To reach the water, a diver must clear several feet of walkway below.

The building was where the famous Nantucket Nectars juice brand got its start, and old versions of labels on company bottles featured a cartoon picture of a man jumping off the building’s roof into the water.

“It’s something kids have done for years,” said Campbell. “People jump off different buildings around the wharf and into the water.”

On Monday, the state medical examiner’s office confirmed that the official cause of Griffin’s death was an accidental drowning. A spokesman did not say what specific factors may have caused the drowning, nor did he disclose whether Griffin suffered any additional injuries.

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, whose office is investigating Griffin’s death, said he had not yet spoken directly with the medical examiner’s office, adding that officials there usually indicate when other injuries contribute to a drowning.

Griffin’s family could not be reached on Monday evening, but Steve Greeley, 61, a close family friend who is acting as a spokesman, said in a phone interview that “everyone in Nantucket has been extremely empathetic” in the aftermath of Griffin’s death.

“He certainly had his share of friends there and people he was going to be interacting with over the weekend,” said Greeley. “The outpouring has been tremendous.”

Many visitors have been stopping by the family home in Scituate to offer condolences, he said. “It’s just been a steady stream of people,” he said. “I’ve been here throughout, and the amount of food, flowers, and the expressions of condolences is just staggering.”

Funeral arrangements for Griffin have been set for later this week. According to the McNamara-Sparrell Funeral Homes website, a Mass will be said Thursday at 11 a.m. in St. Anthony Church in Cohasset. Visiting hours will be on Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. in St. Anthony Church, Cohasset, the website said.

“We anticipate quite an outpouring, just based on the tremendous response already that we’ve seen,” Greeley said.

Griffin’s father, Robert Griffin of Scituate, told the Globe Saturday that his son was thrilled about the success of his fund-raising efforts when he called him on Friday evening.

Griffin’s father founded Champions for Children’s, which is the biggest annual fund-raising event for Boston Children’s Hospital. Following his father’s example, Corey Griffin helped launch a weekend hockey tournament called the NHL Alumni Pro-Am for Boston Children’s Hospital, a close family friend said over the weekend.

On Monday, the funeral home said on its website that in lieu of flowers, the Griffin family requests that mourners consider donations to the Corey C. Griffin Fund at Boston Children’s Hospital or the Corey C. Griffin Scholarship Fund, the Campaign for Catholic Schools.

Globe correspondent Kiera Blessing and Evan Allen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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