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Family awaits answers on drowning death

A Nashville, Tennessee family is looking for answers as they await the report by the chief medical examiner as to why their loved one perished June 13 in the Apalachicola River.

Stephen Wayne Morrison, 57, from Nashville, Tennessee, was found floating in the river not far from the fishing boat docked at Water Street Seafood where he was working as a deckhand.

The captain of the boat had reported him missing early Monday morning, June 13, and Apalachicola Sgt. Chase Richards responded. After a search, he and Brock Johnson, from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, pulled his lifeless body from the water.

Apalachicola Police Chief Bobby Varnes said preliminary indications are Morrison may have drowned, but there will be no definitive conclusions regarding the cause of his death until the autopsy and toxicology reports come back from Dr. Lisa M. Flannagan, in about two to three weeks.

“He was a very loved person,” said his cousin Kelley Reason. “Steve was a very likable and kind person. We’ll try to find out what happened and maybe we’ll have some answers when the report is back. We just want to be sure that no foul play was involved.”

“We’ve all just been in shock,” she said. 

Reason said her cousin had recently started on a new boat, after he had been fishing between the Panama City area and Galveston, Texas for a while. She said he had been in Nashville less than a month ago for a family reunion, to visit parents Barbara and Wayne Morrison. 

A single man, Morrison is survived by three sons Andrew, Taylor and Ryan, and his younger brother Michael Morrison.

“When he came back to Panama City he got a job offer and came back there to take the job, on a new boat they were refurbishing,” Reason said.

She said he had been paid Friday and was out all weekend, and that she had heard unconfirmed rumors that he had gotten into a fight with someone earlier on the evening he disappeared.

“The captain has said that there were things circulating that he had got in a fight with someone,” said Reason. “If it was accidental it was accidental and we’ll accept that. If it’s not accidental I hope they will look at that and I hope they will pursue that.

“We totally respect the process,” she said. “Other people have given us a few little things that make us wonder.”

Varnes said it appears Morrison had been drinking that night. “We think he fell trying to get on the boat,” said the chief, stressing that a clearer picture will emerge after Flannagan’s report.

Reason said her cousin was a man of many talents, who had once run a roofing company.

“He could have done anything,” she said. “He really loved fishing.”

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