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Loved ones mourn, remember lost mariners during vigil

Matthew Brigalia, Lester Naquin and Shawn Pucheu haven't been found since the tugboat collision Sunday. Monday, the Coast Guard ended its search without finding them


Three men who have been missing since a towboat crash in the Mississippi River Sunday near the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge in St. Charles Parish have been identified by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Matthew Brigalia, Lester Naquin and Shawn Pucheu were abroad a towboat, the R.C. Creppel, that collided with another towboat the Cooperative Spirit just after 5:30 a.m., according to the Coast Guard. A passing boat rescued one man, but the Creppel sank, and the Coast Guard's search for survivors was called off Monday.

On Tuesday night at Washington Pier, crowds gathered for a planned vigil for Pucheu, a Bay St. Louis native full of generosity, according to his nephew, Cody Summers.

“Shawn, my Uncle Shawn — he was a great man. He was a role model to me in my life. He’d give you the shirt off his back — his last dollar,” said Summers. “The theme (of the vigil) is 'Lighting the Way Home', so hopefully, we can recover the bodies and get closure for our family and the other families.”

RELATED: Coast Guard suspends search for missing crew in barge crash

Pucheu was a father, grandfather, husband, uncle — a true family man and a diligent worker, having worked as a tugboat captain for more than 30 years, his uncle Willy Jenkins said.

“He was a very good, very safe captain. He was a really good captain,” said Jenkins. 

Pucheu’s family was thankful that one man was able to be rescued after the collision, but they can’t help but miss their own.

“I thought it couldn't be real,” said Jenkins. “I just took a deep breath and cried a little bit. I didn’t know what else to do.”

Though the coast search was suspended, officials were still patrolling levees Tuesday for any sign, so loved ones can get closer to closure.

The barge that Creppel was pushing was carrying sulfuric acid, but the Coast Guard said there was no public health concern.

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