River takes bright teenager

Rescuers continue to look for 17-year-old Larry Bunting Jr., but the effort has turned to one of recovery.

Two memorial services were scheduled to remember Bunting, who lived in the Federal Way area and was a senior at Fife High School. One was held yesterday at Fife High. Another is scheduled for 3 p.m. today at the Puget Sound Christian Fellowship.

Bunting was with three friends at the Green River about 6:30 p.m. Monday shooting video footage to show at graduation June 18.

Bunting took off his shirt and shoes and entered the river wearing just his shorts. He swam halfway out in the 39-degree water before turning around and trying to swim back to shore.

The river carried him away.

Divers with King County Search and Rescue and the Des Moines Fire Department’s swift-water rescue team searched every pool along four miles of the river, from the Green River Gorge Road bridge to Flaming Geyser Park, but they didn’t find any sign of him.

King County’s Guardian One helicopter will continue searching the area intermittently over the next couple of weeks.

Bunting started school at Fife High his junior year, where he met up with his friend Alex Hill, 18. Both boys were born on an Air Force base in Germany and lived there about five years.

Hill said Bunting made the transition to Fife well after his family moved to Washington from Oklahoma.

“He’s one of those kind of guys you’ll always see with a smile on his face. He’s got this laugh everyone knows,” Hill said. “Even if you don’t know him, he’ll still show you the same love and respect. He’s won everyone over.”

Bunting ran track and usually played football, though he didn’t this year because of a concussion.

He and his friends liked to play video games, watch TV, eat food and go bowling.

Bunting and his younger brother Sam, 15, a freshman at Fife High who also runs track, had a running joke about who was faster. They were going to have a big race some day, Hill said.

Just seven weeks from graduation, Bunting had his future all lined up.

He had enlisted in the Air Force, where he planned to serve four years before going to college. He wanted to return to the Air Force to be an officer. He wanted to work on the computer systems of B2s, Hill said.

The days following Bunting’s disappearance have been “gut-wrenching,” Hill said. When he heard, he said his first thought was, “He’d better be OK.”

Monday evening — the evening Bunting was swept away — volunteer rescuers walked along the edge of the river looking for him.

Search and Rescue called off their search after dark Monday, but volunteers continued trolling the banks.

On Tuesday, 10 divers on three rafts traveled down the river, diving into each pool to search. King County Sheriff Sgt. James Fuda said they were holding onto hope they would find the missing teen.

Later Tuesday, two Chinook helicopters from Ft. Lewis joined in the search.

Bunting’s father, Lt. Col. Larry Bunting, Sr., who is stationed at McChord Air Force Base, flew home from pilot training in Oklahoma on Tuesday morning.

He and his son, Sam, 15, drove to the bridge overlooking the Green River to see where the boys had been videotaping. He soon went home to be with his wife, Wilma, and 13-year-old daughter, Jocelyn.

Before he left, he gave a family statement to Fuda.

“God blessed us with our son for 17 years, 10 months and three days. He was bright, very funny, energetic and a video game player,” the family said. “We will miss him dearly. He is our hero.”

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