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Riley Strain’s Family Speaks Out Following His Death: 'Hug Your Babies Tight'

At a press conference, Riley Strain's stepfather said the experience has “been an emotional roller-coaster” for the family

<p>Christopher Whiteid</p>

Christopher Whiteid

  • Riley Strain's family is thanking law enforcement, the U.S. Cajun Navy and more for their support during the search for the missing college student

  • The 22-year-old's body was found in the Cumberland River on Friday, two weeks after he was asked to leave Luke Bryan's bar on March 8

  • "We're quite thankful for everything that you've done for our family," Strain's stepfather, Chris Whiteid, said at a press conference in Nashville

Riley Strain’s family has spoken out in the wake of the 22-year-old college student’s death.

On Friday, the Metro Nashville Police Department confirmed that the University of Missouri student’s body had been found in the Cumberland River, about eight miles west of downtown.

During a press conference that same day, Strain's family thanked everyone who assisted in the two-week search for their missing loved one. Chris Whiteid, Strain’s stepdad, said the experience has “been an emotional roller-coaster” for the family.

“We're quite thankful for everything that you've done for our family,” Chris added. “The grace that you've given us, it means a lot, more than you'll ever know.”

Michelle Whiteid, Strain's mother, also expressed gratefulness for those who helped locate her son. "I just ask that you mommas out there hug your babies tight tonight, please," she added. "Please, for me."

Related: Riley Strain's Mom Recalls Last Conversation They Had Before He Went Missing. It Ended with 'I Love You'

Strain was last seen by friends at a bar on Broadway on March 8, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department previously said.

The Mizzou student was asked to leave Luke's 32 Bridge Food + Drink, Luke Bryan's restaurant and bar, according to a previous statement from TC Restaurant Group, which oversees Bryan’s establishment,

<p>Christopher Whiteid</p> Riley Strain

Christopher Whiteid

Riley Strain

“During Riley’s visit to Luke’s 32 Bridge, our records show he purchased and was served one alcoholic drink and two waters," the statement read. "At 9:35 p.m., our security team made a decision based on our conduct standards to escort him from the venue through our Broadway exit at the front of our building. He was followed down the stairs with one member of his party. The individual with Riley did not exit and returned upstairs.”

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<p>Christopher Whiteid</p> Riley Strain

Christopher Whiteid

Riley Strain

The Delta Chi fraternity member had traveled to Tennessee with the group for their annual formal, Strain's stepfather previously told PEOPLE.

During the course of the search, surveillance video of Strain walking near the bar surfaced and his bank card was found on an embankment of the river on March 17.

That night, Nashville police also showed the family video surveillance of Riley walking near a bridge, which was never released to the public, in an effort to help piece together his path, his loved ones told PEOPLE.

Related: Student Last Seen After Leaving Luke Bryan’s Bar Still Missing 5 Days Later: 'It’s Killing Us,' Family Says

In a press conference on Tuesday, days before his body was found, Strain’s family and friends shared an update on the toll the search had taken on them.

Chris acknowledged to the media that the situation was challenging, but the family believed authorities were "doing their job."

At Friday’s press conference, Chris said they did their best to handle the situation “with as much grace and poise” as possible, but admitted that it was “hard” at times.

He went on to thank the people of Nashville for "the hugs, the prayers, the offers" and all of the help they received from the community during the two-week search. "You don't understand how much that meant to us in some of our darkest hours," he said.

Ryan Gilbert, Strain’s father, also thanked police and the US Cajun Navy for their work on the case earlier in the press conference. “It's just unbelievable what they've done for us,” he added.

<p>Christopher Whiteid</p> Riley Strain

Christopher Whiteid

Riley Strain

Related: Unreleased Video of Missing Student Riley Strain Shows Him Walking Towards Bridge, Family Says

Delta Chi and the University of Missouri released statements about Strain’s death following confirmation of his death on Friday.

"Our hearts go out to Riley's family and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time as we work to provide support and resources to all those affected by this tragedy," the fraternity said in a written statement.

"As the Mizzou community mourns Riley, we are keeping his family in our thoughts and offering support," the university said.

So far, police say that there does not appear to be any "foul play-related trauma," and that his death appeared to be accidental.

Detectives are still awaiting toxicology reports, per NBC News.

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