LITTLE RIVER, SC (WMBF) - The crew that mans the Addis Sylvester fishing vessel is said to be one of the best in Little River.
As they get ready for their next trip out at sea, the tone is somber. Nobody speaks, an eerie silence as one crew member is lost at sea.
Howard Dale Smith, 42, of Socastee, fell overboard Friday around 9 p.m. A day later, the Coast Guard suspended the hunt after a 3,000-mile search.
"He was like a son to me," says Sybil Hillis, who has known Smith for 25 years, a smile coming to her face while remembering the first time they met. "Yes, I met him in south Georgia," Hillis says. "He was looking for a job on a fishing boat and he got one."
The same passion for fishing back then lasted until the day he was lost.
"He was a bouncy, happy-go-lucky type of fella," Hillis remembers. "He was just full of life and I just can't stand to think of life without him."
"They're a tight-knit group," says Harold Wiegel, owner of Dolphin Cruise Boats, which sits next door to the Addis Sylvester.
"They're good folks," Wigel says. "They do have a rough life and when something like this happens, it causes all of us to stop and think how fortunate we are to be working around the water, working around the boats, and do everything in a manner that's safe where we don't have an accident like this."
"He will be so missed and I loved him dearly," Hillis says with tears in her eyes.
Smith's girlfriend of five years is comforting his mother, Carol, in Jacksonville, Florida. The Coast Guard has yet to find Smith's remains at sea.