Forensic testing has determined that bones recovered off the coast of Alabama are of a former Summerville man who was lost swimming last year.
Eric Lonnie Pye, 31, was on his honeymoon vacationing at Orange Beach at Gulf Shores when he went swimming June 24.
A lifeguard saw Pye in trouble in the water and swam out to him, according to the lead detective on the case, Gulf Shores Police Sgt. Jason Woodruff.
By the time the lifeguard swam out to him, Pye had disappeared below the surface, Woodruff said. “It was rough surf,” he said.
The backlash of a large wave dragged Pye into the Gulf of Mexico. Tropical Storm Debby was churning off the coast, creating a double red flag condition on the beach, according to Woodruff, meaning that the waters are closed to the public.
Rescue workers, including the U.S. Coast Guard, spent five days searching for Pye. Rescuers used boats and sonar but were unable to find him.
About three months later, two human bones were found on the beach near the state pier, according to Woodruff. One bone was found on Sept. 1 and the other on Sept. 19. Both were found just a few miles from where Pye went missing.
Forensics tests compared DNA from the bones with Pye’s mother’s DNA and got a match, Woodruff said.
“We would especially like to thank the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences mobile laboratory for their quick response,” Gulf Shores Police Chief Ed Delmore said in a press release. “Their timely results have allowed the Pye family to have answers that so many never get.”
At the time of the drowning, Pye had been living in Mississippi. His mother lives in South Carolina. The Baldwin County (Ala.) coroner did not return phone calls from The Post and Courier seeking to confirm that Pye’s official cause of death was drowning.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.