Despite the Coast Guard's decision to call off the search in a fatal Thanksgiving Day boating mishap, Mary Campbell of Huntington Beach is determined not to give up hope for her brother, missing in the accident that killed her parents.
Campbell was desperately organizing her own rescue effort Monday for Charles Reid, whose boat, Lucky R, was found demolished in the frigid waters off Santa Catalina Island.
"We believe that Charles may still be alive," a tearful Campbell said Monday. "He was very, very fit for his age. He could have survived."
The Coast Guard gave up Saturday in its search for the 61-year-old Long Beach man. The search lasted 44 hours, covering more than 1,000 square miles, and involved two cutters, a patrol boat and a helicopter.
Campbell's son, Daniel, has gone out on his boat with Reid's daughter, Janice, to continue searching. Several family friends, who dock near Reid in Long Beach Harbor, have joined them.
"We're going to keep looking for him for as long as we can . . . we just wished the Coast Guard didn't end its search so soon," Campbell said.
Last Thursday, Reid took his parents out on his 40-year-old, 35-foot cabin cruiser for a Thanksgiving fishing trip. "Our whole family loves fishing and boating . . . it's been a part our lives. We grew up this way," Campbell said.
Campbell said she usually went boating with her brother and would have been on the Thursday voyage had her husband not insisted that they go to Las Vegas for the holiday instead.
Later that evening, the bodies of Robert Reid, 84, and his wife Thelma, 75, both of Hemet, were found floating 10 miles northeast of Avalon with remnants of the wooden boat. An autopsy found that they had drowned.
The wreckage was confined mostly to one area, and Coast Guard officials said the vessel may have broken up without warning. Petty Officer Dennis Ramirez said an investigation into the cause of the accident is pending. Relatives say a collision seems the most likely explanation.
Ramirez said the search was called off because of the time that had elapsed since the accident. Coast Guard officials estimated that Reid would have been able to survive only seven hours in the chilly waters without a life preserver and 40 hours with one. But because three life jackets were found in the debris, officials believe that Reid was not wearing one.
Campbell, however, said there were as many as 10 life jackets on board and that it is possible Reid was able to grab one. "He was extremely safety conscious. He loves the ocean, but he respects it too," she said.
"We're hoping he was able to swim to a cove (on Catalina)," Campbell said as she sat beside her daughter, Shannon, in their Huntington Beach home.
Shannon said that while they hope Reid is alive, they realize that the odds against him lengthen as the hours pass. She said if he is dead, the family would like to recover the body "so we can give him a proper funeral."
Campbell said her brother and parents were well-liked. When she went to the dock on Sunday she found bouquets of flowers left by friends.
"They were the nicest people . . . everybody loved them.
If her brother is found dead, Campbell said she will be able to find solace in one thing: "That he left this world doing the things he loved."
Then, with misty eyes and a smile she added, "I hope they caught a marlin while they were out."