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Funeral arrangements set for Conner Curtice, community continues to rally behind family

Funeral arrangements have been set for 14-year-old Conner Curtice after his body was recovered from the Neches River following a boating accident.

PORT NECHES, Texas — Funeral arrangements have been set for 14-year-old Conner Curtice after his body was recovered from the Neches River following a boating accident. 

Curtice went missing on Memorial Day following a boating accident on the Neches River.

A visitation for Curtice will be Saturday, June 3 ,2023, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Encounter Church, 5300 Twin City Hwy, in Groves.

The funeral will follow at Oak Bluff Memorial Park.

On Wednesday, May 31, 2023, the community gathered for a candlelight vigil at Port Neches Riverfront Park.

A Nederland business is selling purple "Long live Conner" hoodies with a portion of the proceeds going to his family.

MORE | GoFundMe set up to help family

A GoFundMe set up for the family of Conner Curtice has already surpassed $50,000 and donations continue to pour in. 

The GoFundMe states Curtice was a soon-to-be freshman at Port Neches-Groves High School.

Credit: 12NewsNow

The incident happened on a small boat with two friends near NatGasoline plant on Sulphur Plant Road Monday afternoon, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden Captain Ryan Hall.

Hall tells 12News they received a call at 3:15 p.m. on Monday, May 29, 2023 that an 18-year-old was driving a boat north of Port Neches Park on the Neches River when it began to take on water.

The driver tells officials both he and Curtice tried to stop the leak, but then the boat jerked, causing the two to go overboard. 

Credit: Roy Hernandez via Facebook

The 18-year-old tried to save Curtice, but he went under and never resurfaced.

On Tuesday, May 30, 2023 around 6 p.m., a Texas Game Warden Dive Team recovered a body in the Neches River believed to be that of Curtice.  

Searchers with the Texas Game Wardens, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Marine Division, the Port Neches Fire Department, the Beaumont Fire Department and the United States Coast Guard conducted an extensive search using sonar technology to locate the body.  

Jefferson County Precinct One Justice of the Peace Ben Collins, Sr. ordered an autopsy.

"We appreciate all of the volunteers who assisted yesterday evening and today," said Jefferson County Captain Crystal Holmes.

The day Curtice's body was recovered, Port Neches-Groves Independent School District posted a statement saying in part, "our PNGISD family is hurting now for the loss of one of our own and for his family." 

Counselors will be available at Groves Middle School, Port Neches Middle School and Port Neches-Groves High School for students in the coming days and will be available for as long as they'll be needed, according to the statement.

"Please keep his family and our PNGISD family in your thoughts and prayers," district officials said. 

Credit: PNGISD

Rob Ashabranner is executive pastor of Encounter Church in Groves where Curtice and his family would attend services.

He says the congregation has been learning about peace.

"When you need peace all you have to do is press into God's presence and he shows up. So, we're praying and believing that God is going to give peace," Ashabranner said.

It was the teen's grandmother Gayla who brought his family to the church. 

"I've met him through obviously Ms. Gayla and the pride that she takes in her family. All I can say is that if he is a tenth of the person that she is proud to claim as her own, he's an amazing kid," the pastor said.

Pastor Brent Sparks with Encounter Church sent 12News a statement saying, "we are so sad for the loss of Conner. The family and I wish to thank all the agencies involved that worked so hard to recover Conner. Also we want to thank the amazing support from the community and the Encounter Church family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Curtice and Brown families as they mourn the loss of their son and grandson."

Credit: Care for Conner Curtice & Family

While searching for Curtice, the Beaumont Fire Department Dive team investigated several "images of interest" taken with a sonar machine, according to Hall.

"If we were doing a search, it would be possibly look for someone who hasn't drowned. If you're doing a search, you would be looking on land and water, but when we have specific facts that lead us to one area of the water, you treat that as a recovery mission," Hall said.

Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Marine Division, Texas Game Wardens, Port Neches Fire Department and six volunteer boats were sent out to the area Monday afternoon to search for the missing teen, according to Holmes and Captain Hall.

Texas Game Wardens are leading the investigation. 

To begin the search Tuesday morning, the teen's church community rallied around his family to offer boats, food and prayers.

"We have one goal in mind and we want to number one help pray and believe that we're going to find Connor," Ashabranner previously told 12News.

Rescue crews were out early Tuesday morning to continue searching.  

Hall tells 12News the Texas Parks and Wildlife put their dive team on standby for the recovery.

"Texas Game Warden Underwater Search and Recovery team were called in. I called them late yesterday evening, and they come from the Dallas area so it took them a while to get here this morning. They're on scene now. They are conducting operations as we speak. As soon as they find a good underwater target that they can investigate further, we'll put divers in," Hall said.

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This is a developing story. We will update with more if and when we receive more confirmed information. 

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