TAMPA, Fla. – The Coast Guard searched the Gulf of Mexico by boat and from the air for a second day Tuesday for an 18-year-old from Louisiana who fell overboard during a cruise to celebrate his high school graduation.
The Coast Guard said Bruce O'Krepki went over the rails of the Carnival Fantasy on Sunday night about 150 miles southwest of Tampa.
A Coast Guard cutter and two aircraft searched for him Tuesday, Petty Officer Rob Simpson said.
O'Krepki graduated with honors from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Hammond, La., where he ran track and played soccer. He was with about 30 classmates and members of their families on the ship. His uncle Rick O'Krepki said the teen's parents were among the chaperones.
The ship had left New Orleans en route to Key West.
"We hope people are keeping Bruce in their thoughts and prayers," Rick O'Krepki said.
Bruce O'Krepki was one of 65 seniors who graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas on May 9 and planned to attend Louisiana State University on an academic scholarship, his uncle said.
"Just like any recent grad, he was excited about starting college," Rick O'Krepki said. "But he was also a bit sad that he wouldn't be seeing his friends from school every day anymore."
The teen's older brother is a freshman at LSU. A younger brother is a rising high school senior, and younger sister will be junior.
Bruce O'Krepki's soccer coach John Cox described the teen as someone who was connected to the community and his family.
"It's a huge burden for the community," Cox said.