Family Grieves As Search For Diver Called Off

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The family of 28-year-old Michael Burton mourning their loss, but left without closure as the search at Beaver Lake was called off.

Burton leaves behind his wife Annemarie and son Isaac who will turn a year old in a couple of weeks.

Annemarie Burton sent an email to 5NEWS on Friday saying her husband had a passion for water sports.

“Michael lived what he loved and loved what he lived: his Catholic faith, his family, and God's beautiful creation,” she wrote in the email.  “He loved with great abandon and always with a genuine heart.”

We spoke with Burton’s mother, Marissa Pepper, in Omaha Nebraska after she heard the search was over.

“I can’t think about the unknown because it is unknown, I can imagine different scenarios but what I do know is that my Michael is gone and we love him so much and we just thank everyone for helping us,” said Pepper.

Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek said trees and debris underwater hindered the search as divers often got tangled up.

Divers were also unable to see underwater and had to search by feel.

Authorities said burton disappeared Saturday while free diving and spear fishing in a cove off Starkey Island.

Officials say he was wearing a wetsuit and a 14-pound belt and might have gotten tangled in underwater trees and debris.

Divers and cadaver dogs from across the region were brought in to help with search.

“Regardless of where Michael’s body is, he is with our Lord in Heaven and if they can`t find him, it is just what it is. So we are moving on and planning his memorial service and just remembering him because he was just really a remarkable young man,” said Pepper

Pepper said Michael has loved being in the water since he was young and a few years ago he developed an interest in free diving, which became his passion.

Chad Hearne, a friend of Burton sent an email to 5NEWS saying he will be forever missed.

“Michael Burton was very passionate about free diving and spearfishing, he was always very eager to share his knowledge with new and experienced spearos. He loved his wife Annemarie, son Isaac and above all he loved God. He was a great person to be around; he left a great impression on everyone he met. Thanks to our many online forums Michael was able to touch people’s lives all over the world. He will be missed by many.”

Hearne said other people have wrote messages about Burton and the impact he has had on their life on this website

A fund for Isaac and Annemarie has been set-up at Great Western Bank, "Memorial for Michael C. Burton"