Dec. 13—The Navy has suspended search-and-rescue operations for a San Antonio sailor who went overboard last week and expressed condolences to his parents.
The search for Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Ethan Goolsby, 20, who served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, was suspended Saturday night. It began Thursday after a lookout spotted what appeared to be a person in the water.
His father, Kelly Goolsby, issued a statement Sunday evening.
“We are grateful for the search and recovery efforts related to us by the U.S. Navy,” he said. “We remain hopeful that they will continue to search for our only son’s remains.
“Ethan was very proud of the U.S. Navy and the service he was providing to our country. The family would like to have his body recovered so that a proper burial can be held in his honor.”
The Navy, in a brief statement, said it had changed the younger Goolsby’s status to deceased after ending a 55-hour search that involved the Roosevelt and five other ships, the Coast Guard and a variety of aircraft.
Though a good swimmer, Goolsby’s dad said his son had been in water for more than 60 hours. Temperatures ranged from 60 to 70 degrees as the search ensued, with swells of 6 to 8 feet.
The search covered more than 607 square nautical miles.
“The loss of our sailor is felt deeply by all on board,” said Capt. Eric Anduze, commanding officer of the Roosevelt, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. “The entire Theodore Roosevelt team sends our deepest condolences to the family of our missing shipmate.”
Condolence messages flooded his father’s Facebook page Sunday, with one man writing: “My heart hurts so much right now.”
“Prayers for a friend today,” wrote another mourner. “I could not imagine or place myself in Kelly’s shoes if this had happened to my daughters or my nephews. We are thinking of your family and praying for the best.”
A 2019 graduate of Brandeis High School, Ethan Goolsby was just starting his first deployment when he vanished from the ship. He last was seen between 7 and 7:15 a.m. Thursday, a period called morning quarters, after working a night shift.
The younger Goolsby had been inspired to join the Navy because of a cousin who was a sonarman and another relative who’d served in the Seabees.
He talked to Army and Marine recruiters before committing to the Navy, entering the Delayed Entry Pool two months after graduating from high school and going to basic training that November.
The Navy initially intended to send Goolsby to Asia, but later reassigned him to the Roosevelt, where he worked in weapons support.
Kelly Goolsby, 49, a sales leader for a San Antonio cloud computing company, said Saturday evening his son wanted to travel.
” Japan was the thing he wanted to see the most,” he explained, adding Ethan Goolsby wanted “to go see and experience the food culture and the entire culture of Japan. A primary goal of his was to see the world.”
Just what happened remained a mystery over the weekend.
The elder Goolsby said no one has yet explained how his son fell overboard, saying that “they’ve not given us any indication, they’ve not told us anything that anyone saw him go into the water, only that two or three saw him in the water.”
He added, “The captain said at least someone on his bridge had a visual of Ethan in the water as well, from off the aft of the ship. They didn’t know it was Ethan at the time.”
Kelly Goolsby said two investigations are underway and said the family understood both would take time, adding, “We trust through this difficult process that the U.S. Navy will remain transparent and will communicate effectively and regularly with any and all new investigation information as it develops.”
Serving in the military has been a family tradition and one Goolsby said his son was eager to continue. He said Ethan looked forward to joining the Navy and going out on the first seaborne deployment of his career. The Navy, he added, “helped make him into a more self-assured, thoughtful, and diligent young man.
“We want people to remember Ethan’s kind heart, warm sense of humor, his desire to serve his country, and all other aspects of his short life,” Goolsby added. “He aspired to one day become a U.S. Navy officer and we take solace that he died while engaged in the career that he envisioned for his future. While his promise has been cut short, he will always be loved by his family and remembered fondly by those who knew him.”
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