WEST END, BAHAMAS (KLTV) - Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews are searching for an East Texas man who went missing during a commercial shark-diving venture in the vicinity of West End, Bahamas on Sunday night.
The missing man, John E. Petty, 63, is a chiropractor from Longview. Dr. Cody Hopson of Peak Performance Chiropractic in Gladewater is filling in and seeing Petty's patients.
Coast Guard 7th District command center watchstanders were contacted by the captain aboard the commercial dive vessel Shear Water late Sunday night, stating that Petty went shark diving with eight others and he never resurfaced. The Coast Guard immediately launched multiple air and sea assets, supporting Bahamian authorities that have been searching ever since.
Petty was last seen 20 nautical miles northwest of West End, Bahamas, by one of the divers in the group. Rescue crews have found dive gear within the search area, including a camera and a dive mask, but have not located Petty.
Petty is well-known in East Texas for many of his talents, awarded multiple times for his breathtaking photography which happens to be scheduled to be on display this weekend at the Longview Museum of Fine Arts.
But it's not just photography that draws people to the well-respected Longview chiropractor.
"If you've never met John Petty, the second you meet him, you find out how sincere he is about everything. I mean everything: his practice, his church, and his mission trips," his friend Dr. William Bussey said.
His friends know him as an accomplished diver, and say they're surprised that he didn't return from his most recent shark dive. Michael Stroschein, the manager of Jim Abernathy Scuba Adventures, the company that led the dive, said the group was scheduled to return at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Stroschein says their company protocol goes into place when someone doesn't return and they conduct their own search. When they did not find him, they turned it over to the U.S. Coast Guard at 7:15 p.m. They have been helping in the search Tuesday afternoon when asked by the Bahamian authorities.
Justin McFul is the president of the Longview Rotary Club where Petty was a member.
"It's very unusual to hear. Lots of thoughts and prayers going out to his family and the teams that are searching for him. Very hard, very hard to take in," McFul said.
It wasn't uncommon for Dr. Petty to clear his schedule to serve on foreign missions trips.
"He came to me one time and said 'I want to get an MRI machine' for one of the missions he was going on. I said, 'Yeah right. That's 3.5 million bucks!' Well he had it a week later. Shipped it down there. He's that kind of person," Dr. Bussey recalled.
He also has his hand in ranching. His friends describe him and very detail-oriented, and passionate. They won't give up hope.
"He looks at you straight in the eye. You know he cares about you. All his patients that I know are heartbroken right now. We are going to have a good result. Just you wait and see," Dr. Bussey said.