CHARLESTON, SC (WIS) - Hundreds attended a celebration of life service and memorial on Thursday to pay their respects to a man who hasn’t been seen since the plane he was traveling in went missing off the coast near Charleston late last month.
The memorial service for 34-year-old Joseph Allbritton was held at the First Baptist Church in Charleston.
His family confirmed that he was one of five people traveling on a Piper PA-31 aircraft that departed from Robert F. Swinnie Airport in Andrews and was headed to the Bahamas. Allbritton, a Sumter native, had a wife and 3-year-old son.
“It’s the hardest moment I could possibly imagine multiplied by 1,000. It’s utterly impossible to get your head around,” Joshua Allbritton, Joseph’s brother said.
Coast Guard officials said in a news release that the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, or AFRCC, notified the Coast Guard 7th District watch standers at 11:33 a.m. on Oct. 25 of a civilian aircraft emergency. The Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center received a report from the aircraft of an in-flight emergency, lost contact on radar and notified the AFRCC.
Friends, family, and loved ones say the perfect description of Joseph Allbritton is, “a quiet man with a loud voice.”
At his memorial and celebration of life service, it was clear that Joseph undoubtedly touched the lives of many.
“You don’t expect a 34-year-old to go off to his job and not come home,” Pastor Clay Smith with Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter said. “When the Coast Guard is searching for the family, it’s a gut-wrenching time. There’s a couple of days there where maybe there’s hope, maybe he’s still out there, maybe he’s on a raft, and then as time passes it doesn’t look good and they have to come to this acceptance.”
Fred Moulton, Headmaster of Wilson Hall, attended the memorial service Thursday. Allbritton graduated from Wilson Hall in 2002.
Moulton said in the decades he’s been at the school, Allbritton is one of the students that stood out.
“It didn’t matter if I was 50-years-old or 15-years-old, you were drawn to him.” Moulton said. “You know when I saw the orange Clemson hat on the reef at the service it just brought a tear to my eye. That’s him - it’s a working shirt, it’s a crooked hat, it’s dust and dirt and hard hands and big shoulders and a smile.”
After searching approximately 3,516 miles for 76 hours, the Coast Guard suspended their search on Oct. 27.
“It is with a heavy heart that we suspend our search for the missing aircraft and its five passengers,” Capt. John Reed, Commander, Sector Charleston said. “I have spoken with the family of those that were on this plane and extend my deepest sympathies to them and all those who have been hit by this tragic loss at sea.”
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