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FWC identifies boater who went missing near Lake Worth Inlet

Posted at 1:31 PM, Jul 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-06 17:59:39-04

The Coast Guard suspended a search Wednesday night for a 60-year-old missing boater near the Lake Worth Inlet, who was identified Thursday as a Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue employee.

Coast Guard crews searched for about eight hours, covering about 150 square miles, but suspended the search at about 8:15 p.m.

Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue said Thursday the missing boater, Gary Bussey, is a 24-year employee of the fire department who works as an inspector in the life safe division.

Fire Rescue issued a written statement Thursday that expressed their "immense sadness" regarding their colleague's disappearance. The statement issued by Fire Rescue said the "Bussey family is in our thoughts and prayers."

Around noon Wednesday, Bussey and his wife, Tracy Bussey, were returning from a fishing trip in a 2003, 22-foot Grady White boat.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Gary Bussey was at the back of the vessel and reaching toward the water in an attempt to retrieve an unknown object. That's when he went overboard near the inlet.   

The Coast Guard said his wife called around noon Wednesday to say her husband fell off the boat and did not resurface.

FWC said Tracy Bussey was driving the boat at idle speed at the entrance of the inlet when her husband went overboard.

As of Thursday morning, FWC said he is still currently listed as missing. Tracy Bussey was not injured in the incident.

Gary Bussey's 60th birthday is on Thursday.

Neighbors say Bussey was an attentive father and husband and dedicated to his career in public service.

“That shows dedication to a job, and that's how he was to his family and that's how he was to the community," said his longtime neighbor James Clark.

A Coast Guard helicopter and a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office dive team searched for the man but did not locate him.

FWC also helped in Wednesday's search.

“We’re going to continue the search until we’ve exhausted all efforts,” said Carol Lyn Parrish with FWC.

Boating safety expert Richard Wood with Palm Beach Sail & Power Squadron said it’s difficult to find someone once they fall overboard.

“The person in the water, their head is the size of a cantaloupe,” Wood said. “It’s really hard to see them in the water. Especially when there’s only one other person on the boat. They’re trying to control the boat. The boat is going away from the person that fell overboard.”