BY: BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC NEWS
(NEW YORK) — The search for a missing 20-year-old Navy sailor who authorities believe fell overboard while on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier off the coast of Southern California has been called off, officials said.
The search for Ethan Goolsby, an aviation ordnanceman airman apprentice from San Antonio, Texas, ended Saturday evening after Navy officials said search and rescue crews spent more than 55 hours scouring 607 square nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean without finding a sign of the sailor.
The Navy declared Goolsby deceased.
“The loss of our sailor is felt deeply by all on board,” Capt. Eric Anduze, commanding officer of USS Theodore Roosevelt, said in a statement. “The entire Theodore Roosevelt team sends our deepest condolences to the family of our missing shipmate.”
The announcement came just hours after Goolsby’s family posted a message on Facebook, reading, “We are holding out hope for a miracle.”
The search for Goolsby began Thursday morning when a lookout on the USS Theodore Roosevelt reported spotting what appeared to be a sailor in the water about 7:30 a.m., according to a statement from the Navy’s 3rd Fleet in San Diego. Three rescue helicopters and a boat were immediately launched, according to the statement.
“As far as they’re telling us, nobody saw him go over, so they don’t know where he fell from,” Goolsby’s mother, Michelle Goolsby, told Navy Times of the disappearance of her only child. “They wouldn’t tell us if he was floating, if he was struggling, if he was moving. They didn’t know.”
She said Navy officials told her and her husband, Kelly Goolsby, that a second lookout confirmed seeing their son in the water and that a smoke signal and flotation device were thrown to him.
In their Facebook post, the family said Navy officials told them their son was last seen aboard the 1,092-foot-long aircraft carrier between 7 and 7:15 a.m. Thursday at the completion of his night shift.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt left San Diego on Tuesday ahead of its second deployment of the year, according to Navy Times.
Earlier this year, the Navy reported a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Roosevelt that infected a quarter of the ship’s crew of nearly 5,000. One sailor who contracted the virus died.
Michelle Goolsby said her son surprised them with a visit home in October. When he reported back to duty on Nov. 2 he had to quarantine for five weeks, she said.
“They told us (the Naval Criminal Investigative Service) is investigating and they really can’t share any more information at this point,” Michelle Goolsby told Navy Times. “We know there’s been a lot of things that’s happened on that ship, with the COVID, and I have questions.”
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