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Mother of missing drowning victim urges caution on the waters

Published: May. 24, 2022 at 7:21 PM CDT
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COPIAH COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - The mother of a young duck hunter is encouraging boaters to use caution as they head out on the waters.

Sharon Hughes’s son 21-year-old Zeb and 16-year-old Gunner Palmer went to scout duck hunting locations and never returned. Their lives were remembered this week at the Copiah County Courthouse during National Boat Safety Week.

“We’ve lost our boys in a way that we don’t know what happened,” said Sharon Hughes.

She is still in pain over the disappearance of her son Zeb and his friend Gunner Palmer while the two were on the Mississippi River. That cold stormy December third day in 2020, they had gone to various locations looking for duck holes.

“I spoke with Zeb at 2:48 that afternoon when they were pulling into Port Gibson, and he said they were getting to Letourneau Landing, and we said our goodbye, and I love you like we always did.”

Gunner’s father called when they should have returned, and the official 90-day search began, but the two never made it home. Hughes believes the turbulent river waters were too much, although they were experienced and always wore life jackets.

A resolution by Representative Gregory Holloway honored the boys in a ceremony recognizing this week as National Safe Boating Week in Mississippi. The executive assistant wants boaters to know their vessels and research the body of water and its currents year-round.

“I would encourage anybody that still goes out, I want them to enjoy their sport, but if they still go out and do that, that they have a second boat with them so that if something like this were to occur, someone could call for help,” said the grieving mother.

Sadly Zeb, a student at Mississippi State, and young Gunner have not been found.

“I wish I had the words to explain that feeling to where I could really enforce how important boater safety is so that no other parent is ever in that position,” added Hughes.

Representative Holloway’s resolution presentation to the Hughes and Palmer families took place May 19.

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