Searchers Return to Coastal Waters in Hunt for Remaining Children Thrown off Bridge

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The search resumed Monday for two young children allegedly thrown from a bridge by their father with two siblings whose bodies were found over the weekend.

The bodies of 3-year-old Ryan Phan and 4-month-old Danny Luong were discovered a few miles west of the 80-foot-tall coastal bridge, where authorities said the father tossed all four children Jan. 7 after a fight with his wife.

Rescuers Monday searched the waters for 2-year-old Hannah Luong and Lindsey Luong, 1, not far from Bayou La Batre, where the family lived.

The search zone was extended to waters off the shore of Pascagoula, Miss., after Ryan's body was spotted Sunday near shore in Bayou La Fourche Bay, about three miles west of where the 4-month-old was found by a duck hunter Saturday, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said.

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Searchers used helicopters and airplanes as well as airboats along the shallow, marshy shoreline over the weekend. Some volunteers walked hand-in-hand in a slow stroll, overturning logs and debris.

Cochran said the last two bodies could be in nearby marshes or taken by the current closer to the Alabama-Mississippi line.

The search began Jan. 8 after prosecutors said the father, Lam Luong, broke down and confessed to driving the children to the two-lane bridge and throwing them into the waters below after a fight with his wife, 23-year-old Kieu Phan. Authorities said the children were apparently dropped from the highest point of the 3-mile-long span, about 80 feet above the main channel of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Luong, 37, a shrimp boat worker who had moved the family back to the bayou area after living about two years in Hinesville, Ga., remained jailed in Mobile without bond on four capital murder charges.

He first claimed that two Asian women took the children Jan. 7 and failed to return them as promised. But authorities said the story failed to hold up and he confessed. He later recanted the confession in his first meeting with an appointed defense attorney, Joe Kulakowski.

Kulakowski planned to seek court appointment of a Vietnamese interpreter Monday to help him overcome language barriers in speaking with his client. Luong came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1984.

A second body was recovered Sunday in the search for four children allegedly thrown from a coastal bridge by their father, the sheriff said.

The body was found by a search team near where a duck hunter found the body of an infant about five miles west of the bridge in a marshy area on Saturday, said Mobile County sheriff's Sgt. Jerry Taylor.

The search for the children -- ranging in age from a few months to 3 years -- began Tuesday near the mouth of Mobile Bay after prosecutors said the father, Lam Luong, confessed.

The children's mother, 23-year-old Kieu Phan, had gone with Luong to report them missing Monday evening.

"The inevitable nightmare we have feared has now been confirmed," Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said Saturday. "We believe, certainly now, that the father of these children threw these children off the Dauphin Island bridge."

Cochran said searchers using sonar technology saw images Friday that they believed were three bodies, but the currents were so strong the divers were unable to get to the location.

Divers re-entered the water Saturday and worked until darkness forced them out of the water without finding the other three bodies. Authorities expanded the search zone westward toward Pascagoula, Miss., believing that the strong currents may have moved the bodies in that direction. The search resumed Sunday morning.

Luong, 37, a shrimp boat worker who lives in Irvington, was being held without bond on four counts of capital murder. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

District Attorney John Tyson Jr. said Luong had confessed to throwing Ryan Phan, 3, Hannah Luong, 2, Lindsey Luong, 1, and Danny Luong, 4 months, off the three-mile-long bridge after an argument with his wife.

Luong later recanted, claiming two Asian women took the children and never returned them. But a witness saw Luong on the 80-foot-tall two-lane bridge with the children, and another saw him leave the area without the children, Cochran said Friday.

Luong's appointed attorney, Joe Kulakowski, met with Luong on Saturday and did not immediately return a phone message for comment.