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Three duck hunters found dead in Matagorda Bay

By Jon Wilcox
Jan. 7, 2017 at 10:33 p.m.
Updated Jan. 8, 2017 at 12:15 a.m.

Three duck hunters were found dead Saturday in Matagorda Bay after a search by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Starett Burke, of Wallisville; Spencer Hall, of Mont Belvieu; and Chris Ruckman, of Dayton; were located by a Coast Guard search helicopter a day after they were reported missing.

The first man discovered was found about 11 a.m. about 3 miles southeast of Port O'Connor, said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Karl Alejandre. A second man and the boat were found soon after, he said. The last man was located by 4 p.m.

The men and their boat were found in close proximity of one another, he said.

Ruckman's girlfriend notified the Coast Guard of the men's disappearance Friday evening after they failed to return from hunting. The men supposedly launched their boat about 4 a.m. Friday from a location off of County Road 312 in Calhoun County.

They were expected to return by 11 a.m.

Although Alejandre said he had no guess as to what caused the men to enter the water, he noted bay waters were rough Friday.

The Coast Guard was aided in their search by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Calhoun County Sheriff's Office.

Burke, a 25-year-old criminal justice major at Sam Houston State University, appars to have been an avid hunter. His Facebook page displays photos taken during hunting trips.

Hall, a recent graduate of Barbers Hill High school, appears to have shared Burke's zeal for hunting. His Facebook cover photo depicts him in a camouflage T-shirt with more than a dozen dead birds draped around his neck.

Emily Frankum, a former classmate of Hall's, remembered him as silly and goofy.

"He was just a good, caring person," Frankum said. "A fun person to be around."

Ruckman, 18, also showed his love of hunting on social media.

His mother, Teresa Ruckman, expressed her grief, shock and faith on Facebook on Saturday.

"Today is by far the (worst) day of my life," Teresa Ruckman wrote. "I am now confronted with a crossroads of belief. I can choose to give in to sorrow, anger and bitterness or I can trust that God sees and will heal and will bring joy back to my life ... He's got a perfect plan. I don't understand it and I would like to erase this terrible accident. Nevertheless, thy will be done."

Bridget Balch of the Houston Chronicle contributed to this report.


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