MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - A Coastal Carolina University graduate and local dive instructor is being honored in a very unique way. Not flowers or balloons, but an underwater dive site dedicated to Chris Chong, who passed away in December.
Chris drowned while doing what he loved – free diving in Malaysia. His friends say it didn't matter if he was on the water, near the water, or under the water; if it involved water, Chris was happy.
They say his fun-loving attitude was contagious, always smiling, spreading happiness.
It just made sense to honor him by creating an artificial reef dive site. A 102-foot tugboat will be sunk along with 18 reef balls, creating the Captain Chris Chong Memorial Reef. The new site will also serve as a new habitat for marine life and a fishing spot.
"It will actually spread out a couple of sites and make it a little bit better diving site. It will also give he fisherman another place for them to fish as well, so it's a two part kind of thing. It's not only for diving and it's not only just for a memorial. It's also going to help the fishing community and the fish of shore, so it's a habitat for them. So it's a win win win situation all around," said Jonathan Poore, owner of Express Watersports.
"I'm not going to say that Chris needs to be remembered because I don't think he'll ever be forgotten, especially in our eyes, but something out there that is going to be called the Captain Chris Chong Memorial Reef is going to be something special for all of his friends and family no matter who they are or where they are," said Travis Lane.
Travis met Chris their freshman year at CCU. They bonded over their love of fishing and New Jersey roots.
"He was one of the funniest kids. I've never laughed until I've cried so much until I was talking to Chris," he said.
He was always on some kind of adventure, working as a jet ski ranger, mat, and kayak guide, teaching others about the inlet and animals.
"He was full of life, was full of energy, I don't think Chris ever didn't have a person that he called a friend," said Poore.
For his fellow divers, the new site solidifies something they already know – Chris will be with them forever.
"Being a diver, I don't get to dive that often because I work so much, but when I do it's going to be so nice to be underwater and just think that he's there with us diving still," said Stewart Harrelson.