WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - On this Easter Sunday, a Gulfport family mourning the loss of a loved one is also expressing appreciation to South Mississippi first responders. Around 10:30 Sunday morning after a massive search, divers found the body of George Erwin Estes, Jr., 82 in a Stone County pond. He went missing from his boat Saturday afternoon.
Estes' family said he was a retired attorney, and an active member of First Baptist Church Gulfport, Kiwanis Club and the Gulfport Yacht Club. Estes was also an avid fisherman.
Wiggins Fire Chief Jody Hatten said Estes went out on a small boat alone. A friend who was on shore became alarmed when he looked up and saw the boat was empty.
"They realized he was missing. The last time he'd been seen was about five minutes prior to that,"said Chief Hatten. "The boat was anchored in the pond so we made a quick search around the boat but were unable to locate him. So we started doing our search patterns in the pond."
As the search went on, the Wiggins dive team was joined by Gulf Coast Search and Rescue and several other South Mississippi agencies. Officials said they spent 11 hours looking on Saturday but could not locate Estes because of all the debris in the seven acre pond.
"We quit the search last night about 12 o'clock and resumed this morning at daylight with the dogs. Because there was no wind, we were able to pinpoint a little closer to where he may be," said Chief Hatten. "Once we'd done that, we put divers in the water a little bit before 8'clock this morning. We had divers from Gulfport and D'Iberville Fire Departments, Harrison County Fire Services and Wiggins Fire Department. In about two to two and half hours we're able to locate him. "
The Estes family gave this statement to WLOX, "we are thankful for all the rescue attempts from first responders coast wide. He was an avid fisherman. He was generous, and we've never heard him say an unkind word. He was the strongest Christian man we've ever met."
As Martha Estes walked away from the pond where her husband lost his life, Estes' widow, said this past October, the couple celebrated 60 years of marriage. She said "he was the best husband I could ask for."
Estes is survived by his wife, two sons, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Officials said an investigation is underway to determine why he fell off of the boat.