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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Collin Gordon, left, Utah County sheriff's deputy, walks with Joanne Decker, Sgt. Tom Hodgson and Lyle Decker Tuesday. The Deckers expressed thanks to all those who searched for Craig Decker.

PROVO — The three-day search for the body of a 25-year-old Brigham Young University student came to an end Tuesday after the man's father was able to point rescuers in the right direction.

Around 9:43 a.m. Tuesday, a search and rescue helicopter passed over an area one mile south and one mile west of Utah State Park Marina and spotted the body of Craig Decker, of West Jordan, just as it floated to the surface, said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon.

Decker, a BYU student majoring in bioengineering, was sailing on a 14-foot catamaran with his parents, Lyle and Marie Decker, Saturday evening when he stepped off the boat to recover an oar. Craig Decker disappeared into the 3-foot-high waves, and didn't resurface, Lyle Decker said.

Search and rescue crews from various departments searched a 4-square-mile wide area for Craig Decker's body, but to no avail. Then, Lyle Decker accompanied searchers on a boat Tuesday evening — around the same time of day his son disappeared, and he was able to lead them back to the general area where his son disappeared.

"Some things really gelled," he said.

Lyle Decker said he and his wife were in a frantic state of mind Saturday night after their son didn't resurface so they couldn't remember where their boat was when the tragedy happened.

"Memories, when you're in a crisis, get kind of in a jumble," he said.

After the helicopter spotted Craig Decker's body, which surfaced in the general area of the Saturday disappearance, it was pulled from the water and taken to the medical examiner for an autopsy, Cannon said. He also said authorities are still uncertain what caused Craig Decker to drown.

"There's no telling that now," he said.

Cannon said the Deckers expressed relief when their son was found.

"There were tears, but there wasn't a sense of despair," he said. "They've worked their way through it as well as any one I've ever seen."

Lyle Decker said his family appreciates the different agencies and volunteers who searched for their son. He also commended them for their efforts.

"We hope none of you have to endure a similar situation," he said. "But, if you do, you're in good hands."

Lyle Decker said his son was a determined young man who was fixed on living his life to the fullest after he lost his right hand when a Mexican firework exploded as he was holding it on New Year's Eve 2006. Craig Decker learned to adjust to life without a limb and posted several tutorials on YouTube, under the screen name "captaindanger384," teaching others how to type on a keyboard, tie shoelaces or open jars with one hand.

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

Decker's sphere of influence reached farther than his parents imagined. Sean McHugh, 44, of Catasauqua, Pa. — a friend of Decker who inspired him to post instructional videos on YouTube — said he attended an Amputee Coalition of America convention a while ago, and several people talked to him about Decker's videos. They said they hoped to bring Decker out to a convention to speak to fellow amputee survivors.

"They were very impressed for how well he was doing," McHugh said.

Abe Niederhauser — a longtime friend — said Decker was an outstanding individual who was never down on life, even after he lost his hand in the accident.

"I was probably more devastated about it than he was," Niederhauser said.

Decker's sister, Emily, said her brother was an energetic individual who often did things just to show people he was still capable, such as driving a stick shift with his hook prosthetic.

Decker's girlfriend, Jenae Walker, said he drove a stick-shift car on the night of their first date. She also said he still liked to light off fireworks.

"He still thought they were cool," she smiled faintly.

The family is glad to have recovered the body, Lyle Decker said, but they don't like to think they've reached "closure."

"Our love continues," he said. "There's nothing to close. He's just visiting somewhere else for a while."

The family set up a Web site — www.craig-decker.com — where friends and acquaintances can post their memories of Decker. They also plan to set up a scholarship fund in his memory.


E-mail: jdana@desnews.com