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News Drowning victim discovered in Little Tennessee River

Kenneth W. Kubit and Tonia RichThe body of a drowned man was recovered from the Little Tennessee River in Franklin on Sunday.

Macon County 9-1-1 received a call from a mother and daughter riding bikes on the Greenway at approximately 1:10 p.m. The daughter initially had looked down at the river, and noticed a shoe in the water. After taking a closer look, the caller realized the shoe was worn by a body submerged under the water.

At approximately 2:30 p.m., rescue crews extracted the body of a male, later identified as Kenneth W. Kubit, 43, of Franklin.

Kubit's body was found between Arthur Drake Road and Wesley’s Park on the Greenway, submerged 3 to 4 feet under water, according to authorities. Jimmy Teem of Macon County Emergency Services recovered Kubit’s body, which was transported to Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva for an autopsy.

The site where authorities retrieved the body of Kenneth Kubit, of Franklin. The woven cross next to the river was made by Kubit's fiancé, Tonia Rich, in honor of the man who she said was a According to reports, Kubit had been texting his fiance, Tonia Rich, the previous night from his cell phone. Authorities said on Monday that she was one of the last people to have contact with him. An engagement ring that Kubit had reportedly bought for Rich earlier that day was found in his pocket when he was removed from the river.

Rich said in a statement that was contrary to other news reports that Kubit was not simply a man with a drinking problem, regardless of his past struggles with alcoholism. “He had a family and children and many people who loved him,” she said, adding that in the last two months of his life, he had triumphed over his addiction and had been “the happiest and healthiest he had ever been.”

“That night he slipped,” Starr said, indicating Kubit may have had a relapse. “He was my best friend and soul mate and an amazing father to my five boys, whom he called his own. He is missed beyond imagining and I cannot imagine ever being able to fill the void he has left behind.”

Preliminary autopsy results released on Monday attributed Kubit’s death to “accidental drowning.” Investigators with the Franklin Police Department stated there is no reason to suspect foul play and the department has ruled out suicide, based on the initial autopsy. Blood toxicology reports have not been released yet, so authorities are unable to determine whether alcohol or drugs were a factor in Kubit’s death.

According to FPD Detective Mark Foster, the body of the deceased was likely in the river overnight. “Last time anybody had talked to him or heard from him was around 10:30 on Saturday night,” he said, adding that final results of the autopsy will be released in approximately one month’s time.

A funeral service was held in Ohio on Thursday and a memorial service will be held at Burningtown Baptist Church next weekend. For more information, contact the church or Tonia Rich at (828)200-3570.


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