CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The death of a loved one has inspired a family to get support for other families that may be in a similar situation down the road.
41-year-old Chris Whited died in a boating accident on April 2. He was thrown from his boat around 9:30 a.m. in Trout Bayou. The Coast Guard and Texas Parks and Wildlife were on the search until game wardens were able to find him using side scan sonar, on the afternoon of April 3.
“It’s extremely difficult to think that we aren’t going to be able to hug him anymore," his mother, Marsha Whited said. "But he was wonderful. He put his child first. He put his family first. Jace (his 10-year-old son) would come first, he’d come first in our life too.”
After Chris's death, the family set up a GoFundMe page, not for funeral expenses, but to help some of the people that took part in the recovery efforts.
Thirty boats entered the bayou that same morning from the Rockport Fishing Club, lending a hand in the search.
“If the shoes were turned and it was me out there, I would hope that somebody would do it," Clifton Hoffmann said, President of the fishing club.
James Whited Jr., Chris's older brother, was on the boat with Hoffmann. He said they must have passed over Chris several times and didn't know it because they didn't have that side scan sonar technology.
“At that time it just popped in my head," said James. "Why don’t we do something to get that to happen so no family has to leave, wherever they’re at on the coast, has to leave without their family member. So they can lay them to rest.”
The GoFundMe page, in Chris's memory, is raising money to buy a sonar for the fishing club.
“That’s amazing," Hoffman said. "Chris had a lot of people that really loved him. From everybody I've talked to he was a very well known, well liked individual”
“We wouldn’t have the closure that we need," James said. "Going through this we don’t want any other family to have to go through this.”
Originally from the Austin area, Chris was in Rockport with his girlfriend preparing to buy a vacation home. He had kept his boat in Rockport for some time, and the area has great meaning to the family. Chris is a twin, and for their birthday as children they wanted to visit Port Aransas. So, each year they came back making the experience better each time.
“He’s from a family that we’re all close," Marsha said. "We always do things together as far as make plans and everything. And he was right there. He was wonderful and it’s going to leave a huge gap in everything we do in our life now.”
“He was just so kind and patient," said Lexi Baldwin, Chris's girlfriend. "He was really a friend to everyone. He was social. He just had friends everywhere.”
Friends he may not have even known about. The family said several people they didn't know have made contributions to their donation page.
“The feeling I get whenever I see that, in the honor of my brother with the tremendous amount of donations in a short period of time just shows me he was loved," said James.
Hoffmann estimates a decent sonar of that type is $6,500 to $10,000. As of Friday afternoon, the page has over $17,000 in donations. The plan was to buy one sonar, but there's enough to buy at least two now.
"…A younger brother always looks up to his older brother... But it was vice versa," James said.