SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A missing man’s body was found on Wednesday afternoon, after he was swept away in tidal flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew.
Derek Cason, 53, had been reported missing on Sunday.
“He’s such a precious one… I mean, he’s like, an innocent. That’s what I call him,” said the victim’s mother, Nancy Stewart. “I’m going to miss him so much.”
10 On Your Side spoke with Stewart and the victim’s two sisters, Delicia Barber and Deidre Allen, from the Suffolk home he shared with family.
Barber described her brother as a “quiet, sweet, gentle soul…very quiet and very dedicated.”
Family members said that Cason was so dedicated to his job as a cook at McDonald’s, that not only the hurricane could stop him from trying to make his 6 a.m. shift Sunday.
A family friend drove him, partially, to the North Main Street location, until reaching a flooded bridge over the Nansemond River. That’s when Cason reportedly got out to walk the rest of the way, around 5 a.m.
“You should not be able to do that, and I don’t want to ever think that another person would be in that position because once you slide, you’re gone,” Stewart said.
“We want people to know, it’s not worth crossing that bridge,” said Allen.
For days, Suffolk police and rescue crews searched in and around the river – on foot and from the sky.
Cason’s family also scoured the area for him, holding onto hope that he was alive.
“Until they told us different, we were not going to believe different,” said Barber.
But around noon Wednesday, Suffolk Marine Patrol found his body in a marsh behind Normandy Drive.
“Apparently police found a shoe that washed in front of [a] home,” said Dexter Masters, who lives on the block.
“My thoughts and my prayers are with the family,” he said. “I know it can never, ever be easy to lose somebody like that.”
While loved ones continue to grieve, they are relieved Cason is no longer missing.
“It gives us closure in that he’s found and he’s no longer out there by himself.”
Family members told 10 On Your Side that they later learned that McDonald’s had not been open that morning because of the storm. They said that no one called Cason to say he didn’t need to come in.
Reached by phone, a McDonald’s representative said that the restaurant had lost power the night before and employees were still there in the morning. The business ended up opening later on Sunday.
The representative said that had Cason made it to work, he would have been given the option to go home or stay to work.
10 On Your Side received the following statement:
As always, the safety of our guests and crew members is our highest priority. Derek Cason was a valued and beloved member of our McDonald’s family, and our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends and fellow team members during this difficult time.”
— Tandem Inc., a local McDonald’s franchise organization.