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University alum lost off Marshall Islands

University alum lost off Marshall Islands in Pacific Ocean
By Catherine Threlkeld

Contributing Writer

Published: Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 23:11

James de Brueys
James de Brueys, a University alumnus and employee at The Chimes Restaurant, went missing Nov. 25 in the Pacific Ocean.

He was lost at sea with three other people, including a pregnant woman, off the Marshall Islands where he was volunteering as an English teacher for young children as part of the WorldTeach program.

Steven de Brueys, James' brother, said his family received a call Tuesday afternoon from a Coast Guard captain saying his missing boat was found empty and overturned.

"They haven't found anyone yet, and the nearest island was 12 miles away," Steven de Brueys said Tuesday. "With his weight and strength he could be floating in water for 120 hours."

Steven de Brueys said the three other people on the boat were James de Brueys' host father and two women from the Marshall Islands. They were traveling to another island where they could communicate with family members.

Junan Nimoto, an official in the Marshall Islands government's disaster response office, announced Sunday morning that government officials had been unsuccessful in their search for the group, which never returned from a boat trip that typically lasts about 90 minutes.

Steven de Brueys said helicopters, members of U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy and islanders are searching for James.

Family friend and University law student Jessica Smith said several masses were held in James de Brueys' name in Atlanta and Baton Rouge, and "Facebook is blowing up with people writing on his wall."

"We can't give up, can't stop sending him positive feelings," Smith said. "I've heard it said so many times if anyone can do it, it's James. And we can't wait to hear his story."

Smith is helping a T-shirt campaign to support the de Brueys family. Storyville will manufacture shirts featuring the phrase "Bring James Home" and an illustration of James de Brueys' well-known facial hair, which he has manicured for beard competitions.

The shirts will cost $20 and will be ready within the next week. Smith said the profits will help the family with whatever costs they encounter.

"We want to feel like we're part of the effort," Smith said. "In addition to the emotional toll it's taking on the family, it'll help just the family altogether."

James de Brueys always had an interest in facial hair, said fellow Chimes bartender and construction management senior Tommy Bourgeois. James de Brueys even went to the World Beard and Moustache Championship this past summer.

James de Brueys said in an Oct. 5, 2008, interview with The Daily Reveille that he receives a lot of attention for his beard.

"At school, when people pass by me, they'll start cracking up laughing," James de Brueys said. "I don't care, honestly, as long as it makes people laugh at me or with me."

Bourgeois said James is loyal, trustworthy and always in a good mood.

"He's one of those people that always makes people happy when he's around," Bourgeois said. "Makes you have a great day when you meet the guy."

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