A 20-year-old sailor believed to have fallen overboard from a Navy aircraft carrier was last seen at morning quarters on Thursday, his father said.
Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Ethan Goolsby, from San Antonio, worked the night shift on Wednesday on the carrier Theodore Roosevelt, Kelly Goolsby said. He was last seen around 7 a.m. on Thursday -- about 30 minutes before a watchstander reported seeing someone in the water, he added.
Three search-and-rescue helicopters and a rigid-hull inflatable boat were launched in response, Navy officials said in a Friday news release. Several ships and Navy and Coast Guard aircraft are still searching for Goolsby after he was unaccounted for during a command-wide muster.
The carrier left San Diego just three days before Goolsby is believed to have gone overboard off the coast of Southern California
Kelly Goolsby said the carrier's commanding officer, Capt. Eric Anduze, called the Goolsby family Friday night at about 10 p.m. and again Saturday morning to give them updates on the search. They were first informed their son was missing Thursday night.
"The hardest thing for me is that normally, if this were happening, you would have a house full of people," Kelly Goolsby said. "We don't want to do that because of COVID. We've kept it to just three or four close family members that are at our home, and that will probably be it."
Navy and Coast Guard leaders are meeting regularly to assess the search and how long to keep it going. The sailor's family are hoping those efforts will continue "as long as possible and as long is reasonable," Kelly Goolsby said.
The family is worried about Ethan Goolsby's fatigue level, and the possibility he fell overboard after working all night. Kelly Goolsby said they knew his son had been tired. It was his first deployment after finishing A school in Pensacola, Florida, in the spring after graduating from boot camp in January.
He told his parents he was still learning the massive carrier's layout, saying that at times he still got lost on the ship.
"We wonder why he walked alone" after morning quarters, his father said. The Navy did not immediately respond to questions about whether there are policies on the ship to encourage crew members to travel in pairs or groups.
The Goolsby family told Navy Times on Friday they wanted more information from the Navy about the search efforts and other details surrounding their son's disappearance. Kelly Goolsby said Anduze has since responded with answers to many of their questions.
"We had listed out a number of those questions for our casualty officer and he got those out to the captain, so that's why the captain called," he said. "It was good to see that part work."
Kelly Goolsby describes his son as a practical jokester with a huge heart. In October, Ethan told his parents his leave request wasn't approved only to surprise them by showing up at their Texas home.
"I cried," Kelly Goolsby said. "We hugged for so long and he spent an amazing eight days here. We watched Navy war movies. He's a funny kid who ... wants to help people."
Ethan Goolsby was interested in taking online courses toward a college degree while deployed, his dad said. He was optimistic about what he'd be able to accomplish during his five-year contract and was ready to travel the world, Kelly Goolsby said.
The sailor chose to join the Navy because he has family connections to the service, including a cousin who served on the destroyer Fitzgerald.
As the family awaits more information, Kelly Goolsby said about 1,000 scenarios run through his mind. They're trying to remain positive by reminiscing about Ethan. They've gotten food deliveries, porch visits and encouraging messages from family, friends and others concerned about their son.
"We would like to thank all of our family, extended family, and friends and neighbors around Texas, the country and the world for all of the messages of your support in this harrowing time for all of us," Kelly Goolsby posted on his Facebook page Saturday morning. "Please keep them coming. ...[We] are holding out hope for a miracle."
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct when Goolsby graduated boot camp.