Valdosta Daily Times

January 17, 2011

Search continues for missing teen

Kay Harris, Dean Poling and Paul Leavy
The Valdosta Daily Times

LAKE PARK — Search-and-rescue crews vowed Monday to keep searching Ocean Pond until missing 17-year-old James Eunice has been located.

The teen vanished Saturday afternoon and is feared to have fallen overboard from a boat he and a friend were using while duck hunting. The friend stayed on the shore while Eunice went out in the boat. Eunice was declared missing when the boat was spotted running in circles with no one on board.

Search-and-rescue crews have worked around the clock, day and night, since Eunice was reported missing Saturday. On Monday, the search included the use of underwater sonar devices, underwater cameras, helicopters, divers, and people inspecting the shores on foot and boat.

Through sporadic visibility Monday, helicopters continued searching the banks. Moody Air Force Base helicopters reportedly searched areas of the pond’s banks which could not be reached by boat or on foot.

Divers and boats conducted the search in the pond. With temperatures at about 40 degrees in the water, divers rotated in 15-minute shifts beneath the pond’s surface. Divers have traveled to Ocean Pond from throughout the immediate Valdosta-Lowndes County and Moody area, as well as further distances such as Albany, Thomasville and Tallahassee, Fla.

Ocean Pond looks like two major lakes but is one connected by a canal of water. Eunice went missing in the larger, southwestern segment of Ocean Pond. Though called a pond, it is a large body of water, ranging 525.7 acres.

Hundreds of friends, family members and classmates have kept vigil on the banks as the crews worked to locate Eunice.

Meanwhile, thousands have kept vigil on social networking sites. As of early Monday evening, nearly 3,000 people had joined the Facebook site Come Home Safe James Eunice. The FB event site Pray for James Eunice had attracted almost as many hits.

On these sites, people who have known James Eunice for years and live near him posted alongside people from across the nation, many of whom claimed to have never met him but are praying for him and the Eunice family.

James Eunice is a senior at Valdosta High School. He plays numerous sports and is scheduled to graduate this spring.

James is the son of John Eunice, a 2010 candidate for Valdosta City Council, and the younger brother of John Eunice, who was elected to the Valdosta City Council for two terms.

The Eunice family issued an emotional statement Monday through the city of Valdosta.

“We are extremely thankful for the outpouring of support from the Valdosta-Lowndes community as we endure this tragic event,” the family said. “The multi-agency rescue effort on behalf of our son James has been overwhelming to witness. Federal, state and local coordination has been superb. We continue to hold out hope that James will be found. We know that we have the best people in the search and rescue business coordinating the effort, and we are patiently, yet anxiously, awaiting the results. Our family has been overwhelmed by the prayers, encouragement and support. We kindly ask that you continue to pray for the rescue efforts as our family holds out for hope.”

A three-day prayer and worship service for community members began at Crosspointe Church in Valdosta Monday evening, and will continue today and Wednesday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.