NEWBURYPORT — Less than an hour after state police divers ended their search for Kevin Mahoney on Sunday afternoon, a local salvage diver searched under the docks for 20 to 30 minutes and found his body about 10 feet from shore.
"I've done this all my life, " said Mike Goodridge. "I guess I take a different approach to it. You've got to really look,” he added. "You have to put yourself in the frame of mind you're going to look and find what you're looking for.”
Mahoney, 33, of Newbury was reported missing Saturday evening, about 18 hours after he was last seen near the North End Boat Club. Goodridge found his body Sunday about 5:20 p.m. under the docks near the club.
Goodridge was not credited for finding the body in the city’s press release issued Sunday evening. As The Daily News reported Monday, several agencies were involved in the search, including Newburyport police, Massachusetts State Police, Massachusetts Environmental Police and the U.S. Coast Guard.
But a statement from City Marshal Mark Murray through a public relations agency did not mention that private divers were involved or name who found the body.
Contacted Monday, Murray acknowledged it was Goodridge, but added that when the press release was sent Sunday night, "It didn't really matter at that point. The body was found. That's what was important."
Police divers searched near the boat club docks early Sunday, but had to stop for a few hours because the current and turbidity of the water made diving under them dangerous. They dove back into the river at slack tide, about 1 p.m., and searched without success for nearly four hours before ending the search just before 5 p.m.
Goodridge said he noticed local and state police when he arrived at the boat club Sunday morning.
"From experience and from talking with them, once they are on the scene they don't let anyone else go in the water," he said. "I waited around. When they left, I went in and found him."
Harbormaster Paul Hogg, who knew Mahoney, said family friends, boat club members and people with boats wanted to help. "A lot of people were there trying to help and do everything they could to get some closure," Hogg said Monday.
Goodridge said he spoke briefly with Hogg after police left late Sunday afternoon, then dove into the river, and within a half hour, he found Mahoney’s body about 10 feet from shore.
Goodridge, who owns Yankee Landing Marina, just down the wharf from the North End Boat Club, said Monday that Mahoney’s father, Patrick Mahoney, also of Newbury, contacted him and asked him to dive into the river to search for his son.
"This was totally at the request of the family,” he said. “I don't get paid for it."
Goodridge said people contacted him after news reports failed to mention any private divers. He said he was disappointed the city’s public statement neglected to mention any help from private citizens.
"If they had said, 'Hey, we were joined by a good Samaritan.’ But to have no shame and take all the credit, it just rubs me the wrong way," he said. "The people that matter know what happened."
In a phone interview Monday, Hogg credited Goodridge for his effort.
"Mike has been doing this a long time. He is probably one of the best guys around as far as knowing the bottom and the currents. He has a lot of experience with the river," Hogg said. "Unfortunately, the results weren't going to change. It's tragic. It's the worst part of the job."
Mahoney's body was transported from the North End Boat Club to the Coast Guard station at 65 Water St., where it was taken away by state officials for an autopsy.
A spokesperson for the Essex County District Attorney's Office said, "The investigation remains open pending cause and manner of death" to be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.