Longtime conductor found dead in Malletts BayAugust 27,2014
By Amy ASH Nixon
COLCHESTER - The body of a missing Montpelier man, Brian Webb, who had been the longtime conductor of the Vermont Philharmonic, was discovered on Wednesday morning, Colchester Police confirmed, after he was missing in Malletts Bay following a sailing trip there.
Webb was 65.
According to police, Webb had been missing since Sunday morning, and was reported missing after he did not attend church as he was expected to by his wife. He had spent the night about his sailboat, according to authorities.
Webb had sailed his boat for more than 30 years, his family had told police.
Divers were sent into Lake Champlain to search for Webb and police did find the dinghy to his boat near Marble Island on Monday.
The United States Coast Guard had assisted in the search effort and had used a helicopter in the search for Webb. His boat, the Helen Louise, is a 34-foot sailing vessel which has an eight-foot dinghy attached.
According to the Colchester Police Department Lt. Douglas Allen, “We did retrieve a body about 7:45 this morning, and we have identified it as Mr. Webb from identification he had on his person and photographs ... we were able to make a positive i.d.,” he said. “He was floating on the surface. That was kind of what was expected would occur,” he said. Webb was found in about 30 feet of water, north of his boat and about a half-mile off shore, said Allen.
“This all started on Saturday night about 9:20 p.m. We got a call of someone that could hear cries for help in the area of the International Sailing School,” said Allen. He said the Colchester Police Department dispatched their rescue boat, contacted the United States Coast Guard, and also got land units out searching, but, he said, they “couldn't come up with anyone in distress.”
“There are a lot of vessels moored in this area, there is a marina plus the International Sailing School,” said Allen. “We had one call on it. The person (who called police), as soon as they heard it, they went out in a row boat with a flashlight to look around,” and likewise, they could not find the person whose cries they had heard, he said.
Sunday morning, Colchester Police were contacted after Webb’s wife had reached out to the Coast Guard, concerned when her husband did not return home to Montpelier for church, where he was the choir director at the Christ Episcopal Church.
“Brian was just a huge part of our community, he was director of our choir and also our organist, it’s not a big choir but it’s a fabulous choir, I don’t know what we’re going to do without Brian,” church volunteer Ginny Catone said. She has known the family for 40 years, she said. “I remember when his children were born, Brian has been here for a very long time.” The Webbs have two children, a daughter and a son, she said.
The choir led by Webb has been to Europe, and traveled extensively, said Catone.
“We just found a little while ago that Nancy had identified the body,” said Catone, saying those closest to Webb were not in any condition to talk, having just learned about the tragic end to Webb’s disappearance. “At least we’re not having to wonder now what happened,” she said.
Allen, of the Colchester Police Department, said that after Nancy Webb reported her husband missing Sunday morning, Webb’s vehicle was found parked at the sailing center, and a check of his boat found that the dinghy was missing, but his overnight bag was still on the boat. “There was no sign of Mr. Webb, and we started a search and rescue mission.”
Joining in the search Sunday morning, Allen said, was an airplane from U.S. Border Patrol, and a helicopter that came up from Cape Cod, Massachusetts from the United States Coast Guard.
The Colchester Technical Rescue Squad and Vermont State Police also joined the active search that began Sunday morning about 9:30 a.m., said Allen.
The Vermont State Police brought in a sensitive piece of sonar equipment from the New York State Police, Allen said, and those efforts continued through noon on Tuesday. “We had exhausted our areas of possibility and we continued surface checks,” and found Webb on Wednesday morning, said Allen. “His family has been notified,” he said.
Webb’s body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington for official notification, said Allen.
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