BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. – A body believed to be the last of four children who were allegedly tossed from a coastal Alabama bridge by their father was recovered Sunday morning, authorities said.
The body of an Asian child was found about 10 a.m. in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana by two vessels who contacted Coast Guard officials, who then took the body to Venice, La., Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said.
Authorities in Alabama will not be able to confirm whether the body is that of Hannah Luong, 2, until they get it back, Cochran said. But they ended the search of Alabama and Mississippi coastal waters based on the body's recovery.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesau in New Orleans said the crew of the Crystal Lynn first spotted the body and contacted the Coast Guard, which was unable to find it during an aerial sweep of the waters. A second vessel then saw it, leading to the recovery about 5.5 miles due east of the mouth of the Mississippi River, Ben-Iesau said.
"We believe — and hopefully — this will be the body of 2-year-old Hannah and that we'll able to bring closure to the family in this stage," Cochran said.
Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr. said the local medical examiner will contact Louisiana authorities in hopes of returning the body to Mobile as soon as possible. The child's mother was notified of the recovery.
The search began Jan. 8 after prosecutors said the father broke down and confessed to driving the children to the two-lane bridge and throwing them into the waters after arguing with his wife,.23-year-old Kieu Phan.
Lam Luong, a 37-year-old native of Vietnam, later recanted, claiming two Asian women took the children and never returned them.
The bodies of the three other children — Ryan Phan, 3, Danny Luong, 4 months, and Lindsey Luong, 1, have already been found.
The search for the children involved hundreds of volunteers in aircraft, boats and on foot.
Luong is being held without bond in isolation at Mobile County Metro Jail, with a preliminary hearing set for March 5.