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Body of missing Pinellas Park boater found near Sunshine Skyway bridge

ST. PETERSBURG — At noon Friday, a passer-by discovered a man's body on rocks near the north rest area of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

It had been a week since the man, Quang Minh Tran, 34, of Pinellas Park was tossed from an 18-foot skiff into rough waters beneath the bridge as he and three others returned from a fishing trip, authorities said.

Across the bay Friday morning, relatives and friends of the fishing vessel's owner, Phong Quoc Ngo, presided over his cremation at a Tampa funeral home. In traditional Vietnamese fashion, guest chanted Buddhist prayers and placed envelopes stuffed with cash at the father of four's casket during a viewing.

Ngo, 44, was immediately recovered after he drowned on May 27, his 6-year-old son, Anthony, clinging to his body. Another man, Hoa Van, 34, of Pinellas Park, also survived.

Last week, the Coast Guard spent about 23 hours searching 8 square miles before suspending the search for Tran. Even though Ngo's family did not know Tran well, they were comforted by the news that his body was found, said Carolyn Nguyen, who is Ngo's stepdaughter.

"From here on out, we just have to learn how to live," said Nguyen, 15. "Nothing will be really normal again."

Tran's family could not be reached for comment.

The skiff was near the base of the Sunshine Skyway as the men were returning to land about 9:30 p.m., according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is investigating the incident.

Ngo's son, Anthony, told the St. Petersburg Times that the driver made a sharp turn before the boat lurched, sending everyone overboard. Gary Morse, a spokesman for the commission, said it was not clear why the men went overboard. An investigation could take several months to complete, Morse said.

Nguyen said she and her three siblings have also been comforted by neighbors who brought them food and cookies and schoolteachers who have offered to host fundraisers in support of the family.

"I was so amazed by the outpouring of love and sympathy that the surrounding community gave us," she said. "It's been very significant to us."

Times staff writer Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report. Luis Perez can be reached at (727)892-2271 or lperez@sptimes.com.

Body of missing Pinellas Park boater found near Sunshine Skyway bridge 06/03/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 3, 2011 10:26pm]
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