Body identified as that of tugboat crewman

March 31, 2002|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

A body found at Crystal Beach off the Elk River in Cecil County was identified yesterday by Department of Natural Resources officials as 18-year-old Justin Bryant, one of the two missing crewman from the tugboat Swift, which sank when it collided with a barge in the river Feb. 25.

Bryant, whose body was discovered Friday by boaters in a shipping channel near Crystal Beach, was a deckhand on the boat captained by his uncle, William "Bo" Bryant, 44, of Virginia Beach, Va. Four crew members of the Swift were killed in the collision. William Bryant is still missing.

Closure begins

The discovery was welcome news in Bryant's hometown of Supply, N.C., where his mother, Marsha Bryant Johnson, has prayed for the bodies of her son and brother to be found.

"My first reaction was, `Thank you, Jesus,'" Johnson said yesterday. "It brings half the closure. The other closure will be when they find my brother."

DNR police continued to search the Crystal Beach area by boat yesterday for the body of William Bryant, which they believe might be in the same location, DNR spokeswoman Heather Lynch said.

Justin Bryant, a 2001 graduate of West Brunswick High in Shallotte, N.C., was recruited to a career on the water by his uncle.

An outgoing teen-ager

He was engaged to be married and wanted eventually to work as a longshoreman, his mother said.

Bryant, who had an affinity for spaghetti and chocolate cake, was remembered yesterday as an outgoing, fun-loving teen-ager who loved dogs and often bragged about how toned his muscles were.

The tugboat sank the morning of Feb. 25 when its accompanying convoy of tugs and barges collided with a 520-foot freighter, the A.V. Kastner, in thick fog near Town Point peninsula, south of Chesapeake City.

Bodies of two other crew members were recovered March 2. Five crew members were rescued.

Sun staff writer Laurie Willis contributed to this article.

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