What We Know So Far About Riley Strain's Autopsy

When 22-year-old college student Riley Strain went missing on March 8 in Nashville, not only did authorities get involved in solving the case, but so did TikTokers via @rileylively's account. Strain had been captured on surveillance video stumbling down the street after leaving Luke's 32 Bridge while in town for Delta Chi fraternity's spring formal, despite the bar stating that Strain hadn't consumed more than "one alcoholic drink and two waters," as the NY Post quotes. While this statement, combined with his disappearance, might be enough for some people to believe that foul play was involved, it seems that wasn't the case.

Riley's body was pulled from Cumberland River on March 22. At the time, authorities didn't believe that foul play was involved. His bank card — found by the aforementioned TikTokers — had been discovered near the river, and the most reasonable conclusion was that Strain had fallen into the river and drowned. Indeed, a local homeless man had seen Riley appear "very, very intoxicated" and almost topple over into the water, per the NY Post.

Now that Strain's autopsy has been conducted, we can confirm that his death "appears accidental," as Metro Nashville Police Department representative Kris Mumford told The Tennessean. Beyond this, we have no further details at the moment. Toxicology reports are incoming, as is the full, official autopsy.

An accidental cause of death

Even though a non-accidental version of Riley Strain's death might seem plausible, it really does seem like the simplest explanation is true: Strain got overly intoxicated, had trouble walking, at some point slipped and stumbled into the Cumberland River, and wasn't unable to swim out. The Tennessean states that detectives were present when Strain's autopsy was conducted, and everyone concurred that Strain's death appeared accidental.

An accidental death also fits Strain's final communication to his girlfriend, which comes across as a drunken text. As News Nation says, Strain's girlfriend texted to ask how he was doing and received a short, "Good lops" in return. It's possible that the text had been autocorrected incorrectly and Strain was too intoxicated to notice or care. Otherwise, some think that the "lops" means, "low on power, sorry." Then again, it turns out that Strain's battery was not actually low on power.

On the other hand, Nashville police officer body cam footage also captured Strain on the night of his disappearance. At the time, and as the footage shows (via The National Desk/YouTube), Strain showed no signs of having a hard time walking or talking when the officer asked how he was doing. That being said, being intoxicated doesn't necessarily mean that Strain couldn't walk well for the few seconds that he was caught on body cam. 

The possibility of foul play

Even though Riley Strain's initial autopsy results indicate that he died an accidental death, some will still speculate that it's possible that foul play was involved. Perhaps someone drugged him at Luke's 32 Bridge, such individuals might claim, and that's why he appeared so loopy on surveillance footage even though bar employees stated that he only had one drink. Also, according to the Independent, a family friend said Luke's 32 Bridge was the third bar the group went to that night.

Still, to help clarify the case, it's important to talk about the difference between manner of death and cause of death. Autopsies can help determine both the manner of death and the cause of death. When medical examiners say that Strain died an "accidental" death, they're referring to his manner of death. There are only five possible manners of death: homicide, suicide, accidental, natural, or undetermined. Medical examiners can determine a manner of death only after they've uncovered a cause of death. Causes of death are numerous and include practically every single thing that can kill a person. 

If Strain's death was accidental, then it's reasonable to conclude his full autopsy will indicate that his cause of death was related to drowning. And if no evidence of foul play was involved — like a bruise on the back of the head from being struck, for example — then he really did just tragically topple over near the Cumberland River and fall in.