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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Wendell Nope with the Department of Public Safety checks a sonar device being used to search for Craig Decker in Utah Lake.

PROVO — A 25-year-old man who is presumed drowned in Utah Lake inspired and instructed fellow amputation survivors with his YouTube videos.

Under the screen name "captaindanger384," Craig Decker of West Jordan posted four tutorials on the popular video-sharing Web site to teach others who had lost an upper extremity how to cope with simple day-to-day tasks. With instructional videos including typing on a keyboard, tying shoelaces and opening jars, Decker had a message of hope to share.

"There's always a way to do things," he said in a clip on opening cans. "You just have to find a way and make a way."

Decker, a Brigham Young University student majoring in neuroscience, jumped into the water about a mile west of Utah State Park Marina to recover some equipment that had fallen from a boat and did not resurface Saturday evening. He was sailing with his parents, Lyle and Marie Decker, on a 14-foot catamaran.

Rescue parties continue to search Monday for his body. They've expanded the search to an area of about four square miles.

While no sign of their son has been found, the Decker family said they've come to terms with his passing. They felt frantic the day he went missing, but they've found genuine peace in the past few days and said they hope those who've come to know their son will do the same.

"He would want that," Lyle Decker said Monday afternoon. "He would not want you to feel hurt."

Decker lost his right hand on New Year's Eve in 2006 when a firework he bought in Mexico exploded in his hand. Since that time, he was determined to live a meaningful life.

"Challenges make us stronger and better," he wrote on his YouTube profile. "With creativity and patience, we are capable of much more than we ever imagined."

Along his journey to readapt to life without a right hand, Decker met 44-year-old Sean McHugh of Catasauqua, Pa. McHugh had lost his arm in a construction accident. After the accident, McHugh started making and posting YouTube videos under the screen name "theguywiththehook" to help amputee survivors lead a fulfilling life.

Decker contacted McHugh to consult him on prosthetic options, and the two soon became friends despite the geographic divide. Decker took a cue from McHugh and posted his own instructional videos.

"I knew him to be a very bright young man with an incredible sense of humor and a light heart," McHugh said. "He managed to get through that very ugly accident with a very positive attitude."

In McHugh's work as as a peer counselor for Amputee Coalition of America, he frequently talks with those whose "world is rocked" by the loss of a limb. They often ask "Why me?" or become angry and resentful, McHugh said, but he never saw any of that in Decker.

"Craig was nothing but positive momentum," he said. "He seemed to have completely accepted the fact that this happened, and he was bent on living his life to the fullest."

Several comments posted beneath Decker's videos express appreciation and awe for his determination and ingenuity.

"Thx so mutch 4 helping people the way u do," 1armedwonder posted four days ago. "Its important that people get to see that u can do whatever u set ur mind 2."

"I can't believe you are such a recent amputee," Deafboogie remarked two months ago.

"What a great guy. He will be missed," Mxchamps wrote Monday.

The posts also attest to Decker's humor. At the bottom of the can-opening tutorial, one poster wrote, "I can open a can with my voice alone — (by asking a girl to do it)."

"Touche," Decker responded, "But let's face it ... chicks dig a guy who can open a can."

Decker's parents said they've been overwhelmed by the number of condolences they've received from people across the nation since the accident. They didn't realize his sphere of influence extended so far, Lyle Decker said.

Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said the search for Decker's body has produced no new results.

"We have not found any items connected to Craig," he said Monday.

The searchers are using sonar to scan the depths of Utah Lake. They've whittled their search crew down from about 60 on Sunday to about 27 people on Monday, but Cannon said that is because sonar works best with as little disturbance as possible to the water.

The search was suspended about 8 p.m. as rising winds made using the sonar equipment difficult. They planned to resume the search this morning.

Lyle Decker said he appreciates the rescue teams who've let them come out on the boats. He also said he's certain his son's body will be found.

"We have no worries about that," he said. "There is no fear or concern about that."


E-mail: jdana@desnews.com