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Chris Parker's friends to mourn, then search

Friends and family will attend a service this afternoon to celebrate the life of Bonefish Grill co-founder Chris Parker and to mourn the abrupt end that came last weekend when his racing boat wrecked near the Gandy Bridge.

On Sunday, they will continue searching the bay for Parker's remains.

Parker, 37, is presumed dead in the accident last Sunday in which his 36-foot boat flipped at 100 mph.

The restaurateur's loved ones organized a service to celebrate his life today, at 1 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 1900 Gandy Blvd. in St. Petersburg. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be given to the American Cancer Society, for Lung Cancer Research, 4801 86th Ave. N, Pinellas Park, FL 33782.

Stephanie Amberg, spokeswoman for Outback Steakhouse, which owns the Bonefish chain, stressed that today's service is a private event for Parker's family and friends.

The public is welcome Sunday, when a group of friends and relatives plans a sweep of Tampa Bay in search of his body. They will meet at the boat ramp on the Tampa side of the Gandy Bridge at 10 a.m. The search will start with a northern sweep of the bay and move south.

"We'll take as many boats as want to come," said friend Clifford Davis, who was cruising alongside Parker just before the accident. "We need everything from little flat boats that can go in shallow areas to the big boats."

Davis and a passenger helped rescue two South Tampa residents who were in Parker's boat. Both women, 27-year-old Jodi Forca and 29-year-old Chris Sears, have been released from Tampa General Hospital.

Davis took his Cessna airplane out for three hours Friday to search for his friend.

Law enforcement agencies called off an intensive search for Parker on Wednesday. Authorities expect the body will resurface soon.

Davis said Parker's loved ones don't want to wait: "His mom said she just wants him warm again."

_ Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 226-3373 or svansicklersptimes.com.

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