Only six hours after the Coast Guard called off the search for 28-year-old Chrismodalis Thomas, missing since Wednesday, Kevin LaPlace, a north side fisherman, spotted a body floating near Outer Brass, an island off the north coast of St. Thomas a mile and a half outside of Hull Bay.
La Place was headed out for some night fishing at about 5:15 p.m. when he noticed the floating body.
"It was all messed up from the sea," La Place told St. Thomas Source.
Because of the body's condition, LaPlace couldn't get it aboard his fishing boat, so he returned immediately to Hull Bay where he called police.
But the police didn't show up until well after dark. LaPlace couldn't say exactly what time it was.
"It was dark when they showed up," said a man identified only as Arthur, who is the bartender at Larry's Hideaway in Hull Bay, where the call to police was made.
LaPlace said there was enough left of the body to identify it as that of a black male.
A crowd of about 40 people, including, six or seven police officers, two plain-clothes policemen and St. Thomas rescue personnel, gathered at the boat launch at Hull Bay, awaiting the outcome of the after-dark search that was conducted by LaPlace and two other men using LaPlace's fishing boat.
About 10 p.m. the search party returned empty-handed.
LaPlace, who rebuked the police for taking so long to show up and for not coming with adequate equipment, later told the Source that the batteries died on the one searchlight they had been provided with.
According to LaPlace, one man from St. Thomas Rescue went out with him and another local fisherman to look for the body.
Lt. Lorraine Edwards, the police officer in charge, said she could not answer any questions about the operation.
"You will have to talk to the chief of police," she said.
Petty Officer Terri Holster of the U.S. Coast Guard Greater Antilles Rescue Center in San Juan said the Coast Guard received a call about the incident from the Virgin Island Police at 8:45 p.m. via Virgin Islands Radio.
However, Holster said, "We wouldn't conduct a flight three hours after the original sighting."
By the time the Coast Guard could get to St. Thomas it would be five hours after the sighting.
It is also not within the purview of the Coast Guard to look for deceased bodies, according to Holster.
She added that it is hard to find a body under night conditions. "Our lights are almost ineffective."
She said the Coast Guard would, however, assist the police Saturday morning.
"We will assist another agency in closing a case when they may lack equipment."
Police Chief Jose Garcia could not be reached Friday night for comment.
Editors'note: For more background see earlier story, "Coast Guard calls off search."