UPDATE: Funeral services for Brandon Creamer will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, July 29 at Kelley Funeral Home in Apalachicola. Viewing will be 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 28 at the funeral home.
A young Eastpoint oysterman perished Monday morning working under adverse weather conditions in Apalachicola Bay.
The body of 21-year-old Brandon Wayne "Bruno" Creamer was recovered Tuesday afternoon in Apalachicola Bay about a mile east from where his small boat went down Monday morning in a thunderstorm.
Capt. Chester Creamer, with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, said a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission helicopter spotted the body about 2:30 p.m.
Law enforcement officials aboard the sheriff’s watercraft, and one from the Wewahitchka Search and Rescue Team., retrieved the body from the water and brought it to St. George Island.
Clarice Powell, victim advocate at the sheriff’s office, said distraught family members awaited the grim news on the shoreline. Powell accompanied Creamer’s mother, Maggie Creamer, and her fiancé Lance Flowers, to Kelley’s Funeral Home, where Bruno Creamer’s body was taken before being transported to Tallahassee for an autopsy.
“It was very emotional for her. Being a mother she wanted to see him,” said Powell. “A mother just needs closure and that’s something I advocate for. If a mom wants to see her child, that’s what a mom needs to do.”
Creamer’s fellow oystermen, together with law enforcement vessels, scoured the area on the northwest side of Bird Island, west of the St. George Island bridge, working in daylight from the time the oystering vessel sank with two aboard in bad weather at about 8 a.m. Monday.
Eastpoint resident Billie Murray, 18, was picked up within minutes by another boat in the vicinity, and was taken to Weems Memorial Hospital, treated and released. A sheriff’s deputy on the bridge at the time of the mishap said Brandon Creamer clung to oyster tongs for a time, before the swift current pulled him beneath the waves.
“She’s hanging in there the best she can,” said Powell. “She treaded water. She knew how to swim, not very well, but she knew how to tread water.”
Chester Creamer said reports are that waves in the pelting rain swamped the stern and brought the boat down. Powell said Murray had time to call her sister, who was on a nearby oyster boat working with Don Davis. Also, a distress call was put in to the sheriff’s office, she said.
“There were life jackets on the boat but it went down so fast,” said Powell. “As it started going down, the current grabbed her. She lost sight of him because of the waves.”
Davis and another oyster boat helped pick Murray up from the raging sea. “By the time they got there the boat had already sank,” said Powell. “They saw her and it was a struggle getting her on the boat because the waves were so bad.”
An oysterman aboard one of first boats to arrive on the scene after the accident said that “a sudden thunderstorm came through and it got really bad. The waves picked up and water came over the side.”
An onlooker reported that four life jackets were seen floating in the area of the sunken boat.
Stan Kirkland, a regional spokesman with FWC, said the vessel was buoyed, but remains on the seafloor in about 10 foot deep water.
In addition to FWC watercraft and an interagency dive team assembled by FWC, the sheriff’s office has two vessels in the search, together with one from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Chester Creamer said the sheriff’s boat used sonar and side scanners in their daylight search that were capable of showing everything on the bottom. “When it’s dark you can’t see,” he said.
Shrimp boats worked Monday night dragging the sea floor in the area near where Creamer had gone in.
George Watkins was among those aboard the shrimp boats and he said the weather got so bad around 11 p.m. they were afraid they wouldn’t make it in.
Kirkland said the bay was open for harvesting all this week. “Unless there is a closure that applies to oystering, they can oyster as they see fit,” he said. “I would leave it up to fishermen about that. Everybody should pay attention to the weather.”