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April 3, 2005

Coast Guard searching for missing boater

From: Myrtle Beach Sun News, SC - Apr 3, 2005

By Johanna D. Wilson
The Sun News

Johnny Wayne Brown, 36, is supposed to get married June 11.

But Saturday his loved ones feared the wedding might never happen.

Brown, of Conway, was missing after being thrown from a fishing boat called The Tracy Lynn at about 9 a.m. Saturday off the coast of North Carolina, according to family members.

Coast Guard officials would not say whom they were looking for, but they confirmed a search is taking place for a man, one of three, who was on The Tracy Lynn.

The 50-foot boat was about 50 miles off shore from Cape Fear, N.C., in what a Coast Guard spokeswoman said were 12-foot seas in winds between 50 and 70 mph.

"My brother-in-law [Tony Bessent] said they were in the well house drinking coffee when he looked up and saw a 30- to 40-foot wave coming," said Laura Abernathy, Brown's sister.

Bessent, Brown and another man, according to family members, were fishing on the boat for the first time.

"The wave just disintegrated the boat," Abernathy said.

The men had been on their trip since last Friday and were fishing for snapper and grouper, a Coast Guard official said.

Bessent was rescued by a container ship on its way to Norfolk, Va., from Savannah, Ga., family members said.

That ship, according to Coast Guard officials, was called the Sophia Brittania, a Greek flag ship.

"The first man was located about 2 p.m. and picked up shortly thereafter by the ship," said Krys Hannum, a spokeswoman for Coast Guard who is based in Portsmouth, Va. "The second man was found within the hour and hoisted to safety by a Coast Guard helicopter out of Elizabeth City, N.C."

Coast Guard officials out of Elizabeth City, N.C., and Fort Macon, N.C., still were searching for Brown at press time.

Hannum said the first man, who family members say is Bessent, was in good condition and was not transported to a hospital.

The second man rescued was taken to New Hanover Hospital in New Hanover, N.C., and his condition was not immediately available.

What is certain, however, is that Brown's family wants him found and home.

Family members and friends gathered at his parents' home Saturday in Conway waiting to hear what they pray will be good news.

"Johnny is a ray of sunshine," said his sister-in-law, Berly Brown. "He is probably my ultimate favorite. He has a huge smile. When he walks into a room, he radiates it. He is precious."

Brown, a graduate of the S.C. School for the Deaf and Blind in Spartanburg, is a deaf mute who has been fishing since he was in high school.

Yet being unable to hear or talk never stopped him, family members said.

"Johnny can make friends with anybody," Abernathy said. "He was quarterback of the football team. He was Mr. Junior and Mr. Senior."

His sister-in-law said he is also cute.

"He kind of looks like Patrick Swayze and Kurt Russell rolled into one," Berly Brown said. "He has deep dimples in his cheeks. He is a doll." Contact JOHANNA D. WILSON at or 626-0324.

© 2005 The Sun News and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.