UPDATE: Body of drowning victim found

UPDATE 09:25 AM 07/19/2010: According to East Texas Game Wardens, the body of drowning victim, Christopher Early, 31, was recovered at 7 a.m. Monday at Lake Tyler.

By Sara Story - bio | email

LAKE TYLER (KLTV) - A midnight swim turned tragic when a 31 year old East Texas man went missing. Authorities spent Sunday searching for the body of Chris Early near the barge lots on Lake Tyler.

Officials say he went for a swim just after midnight with four of his friends, and it appears he drowned when he didn't return to the boat.

Boats full of investigators and divers searched ,while Early's family and friends looked out on the water where he went missing. "I'm still hopeful until they bring him to me, one way or another," said his brother, George "Doc" John.

Chris Green, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden, says Early and his friends took a boat out about a half mile from the shoreline. "They had life jackets on board. They just didn't take them with them when they jumped in... [Early] was kind of back stroking around the boat, cutting up. They talked to him. Everybody decided to get back in the boat. Four of the five got in," said Green.

The fifth person never surfaced. It was Early, a Chapel Hill resident.

"I've never met anybody that met Chris that didn't say, 'That was one good guy.' If you met him on a weekend like that, when you said goodbye to him on Sunday, you would say something to the effect of, 'I'll hang out with him any day of the week,'" said John.

John describes Early's contagious personality and knack for music. "His passion was being there for people and playing his music, and if he could have made a living out of that, he would have been a rich man."

Authorities say the boat Early and his friends were driving was in compliance with water safety laws, and there is no sign of foul play. Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens will continue to investigate the incident. They say alcohol was involved.

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