Search Ends For Hammond Grad Who Fell Overboard Into Gulf

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The Coast Guard ended its search Tuesdaynight for an 18-year-old from Louisiana who fell overboard during acruise to celebrate his high school graduation.

The Coast Guard said Bruce O'Krepki went over the rails of theCarnival Fantasy on Sunday night into the Gulf of Mexico about 150miles southwest of Tampa. Boats and aircraft searched an area ofnearly 5,300 square miles.

"After an exhaustive search effort to find Bruce O'Krepki, wehave made the difficult decision to suspend our active searchefforts," Capt. Drew Pearson said in a news release. "Ourthoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during thisdifficult time."

O'Krepki graduated with honors from St. Thomas Aquinas HighSchool in Hammond, La., where he ran track and played soccer. Hewas with about 30 classmates and members of their families on theship. His uncle Rick O'Krepki said the teen's parents were amongthe chaperones.

The ship had left New Orleans en route to Key West.

Bruce O'Krepki was one of 65 seniors who graduated from St.Thomas Aquinas on May 9 and planned to attend Louisiana StateUniversity on an academic scholarship, his uncle said.

"Just like any recent grad, he was excited about startingcollege," Rick O'Krepki said. "But he was also a bit sad that hewouldn't be seeing his friends from school every day anymore."

A message left for Rick O'Krepki after the search was called offwas not immediately returned.

The teen's older brother is a freshman at LSU. A younger brotheris a rising high school senior, and younger sister will be junior.

Bruce O'Krepki's soccer coach John Cox described the teen assomeone who was connected to the community and his family.

"It's a huge burden for the community," Cox said.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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