By ANJALEE KHEMLANI and DEREK HARPER, Staff Writers
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Lynsey McAuliffe said she will always cherish the brief time she and her husband, David C. McAuliffe, spent together, now that she knows he can never come home to her again.
“I can’t stress to you enough what a humble, kind, gentle spirit he was — is — always will be,” McAuliffe said through tears Wednesday on the front lawn of the home they shared.
The body of her husband, who had been missing since his Sea Tow rescue boat sank last week, was found Wednesday on an Ocean City beach.
“My heart is so broken,” Lynsey McAuliffe said. “But I love you, David McAuliffe, and I will love you until I take my last breath.”
An Ocean City Public Works crew found David McAuliffe’s body at about 6 a.m. while doing a routine beach cleanup, Ocean City Police Capt. Steve Ang said. McAuliffe was found near the shoreline, between 25th and 26th avenues.
State Police officially confirmed it was McAuliffe several hours later, saying he was identified on the beach with a personal ID found on him.
The 34-year-old Egg Harbor Township resident was found without any survival clothing, wearing a jacket and pants, State Police Sgt. Adam Grossman said. Grossman said a Cape May County medical examiner determined McAuliffe died by accidentally drowning.
Ocean City residents Ron and Beverley Denney said they were walking along the beach and saw police arrive at the scene Wednesday.
A few days ago, Beverley Denney found several items while running along the beach that may have belonged to McAuliffe, which were turned in to police, she said. In addition, she found a paddle yesterday, and it was confirmed it belonged to the Cape Hatteras, she said.
McAuliffe had been missing since he disappeared April 23 after the Cape Hatteras sank in heavy seas just east of the Great Egg Harbor Inlet.
The boat was found Thursday afternoon and taken out of the water Monday. On Wednesday, the 49-foot vessel lay on a barge in the Ship Channel off Somers Point, waiting to be towed to Avalon later this week for a formal Coast Guard investigation into the sinking.
Funeral and memorial plans were still being made Wednesday.
David’s sister Keri Muli set up the David C. McAuliffe Memorial Fund on Sunday to help his family with some of the financial problems she will likely face. The fund, set up through giveforward.com, had raised almost $13,000 by 7 p.m. Wednesday.
McAuliffe worked for the Atlantic City franchise of Sea Tow Services, an international company that rescues stranded boaters. He sank while transporting a boat between Atlantic City and Somers Point for a routine Coast Guard inspection needed prior to a large salvage job, his wife and friends said Wednesday.
“He is a hero in every sense of the word,” said Lynsey McAuliffe, 35. “He helped, I can’t tell you how many people in their time of need. He was a very humble, quiet man.
“His job was often thankless,” McAuliffe added. “I need every boater out there to appreciate what these men do for them because they put their lives on the line every day.”
David McAuliffe, a 1998 Lacey Township High School graduate, had also graduated from the Chapman School of Seamanship in Stuart, Fla., on that state’s East Coast about a half-hour south of Port St. Lucie, family and friends said. They said he held a master captain’s license for vessels up to 100 tons, was endorsed for towing, and had worked for Sea Tow since 2005.
They also said it was routine to take a boat into the rougher open ocean in the off-season, because it was quicker than navigating through the Intracoastal Waterway and waiting on three separate drawbridge openings.
McAuliffe was “like a son to us,” Capt. John and Sandy McLaughlin, the owners of Sea Tow Atlantic City, said in a statement. They described McAuliffe, their lead captain, as an “an integral part of our operation, and we will miss him greatly.” They encouraged people to keep his family and friends in their thoughts and prayers.
It is the company’s first captain to die on-duty in its nearly 30-year history.
“All of our Sea Tow captains and crew dedicate their lives to saving others,” Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer, Sea Tow CEO, said in another statement. “To lose one of our team is devastating to all of us. My thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family and friends at this difficult time.”
Lynsey and David McAuliffe married in October 2010, and family and friends described their relationship as deep and loving. Lynsey has a 15-year-old daughter, Samantha, from a previous relationship that friends said David McAuliffe raised as his own.
“Lynsey and David and Samantha were truly a happy family,” said Lynsey’s sister, Meredith Feby, 41, of Monroe Township, Gloucester County. Their relationship, she said, was “a once-in-a-lifetime thing that we all wish we could find.”
“This man worshipped the ground that she walked on,” added Lynsey’s friend Amy Walsh, of Egg Harbor Township.
While his friends and family will sorely miss David McAuliffe, his wife urged people to remember those, like her husband, who work to rescue others on the region’s waterways.
“I will miss him every single day. Our daughter will miss him every single day,” she said. “We are two of the luckiest people in this world to have him for the time that the good Lord allowed us to have him.
“Please appreciate these men who do this to help people,” she added. “They need your help, they need your appreciation.”
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