Body of Ponchatoula teenager found near Gulf Shores, Ala. _lowres

Chaston Brown

The body of a Ponchatoula teenager who disappeared Sunday while swimming at a public beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama, was found Tuesday.

A swimmer reported finding the 17-year-old boy, identified by his friends as Chaston Brown, about 1:30 p.m. in the water near East Gulf Place, a few city blocks east of where Brown was last seen, Cpl. Josh Coleman of Gulf Shores Police Department said.

Brown’s family was notified, and his body has been released to the Baldwin County coroner, Coleman said.

The boy’s friends and classmates from Ponchatoula High School, where Principal Daniel Strickland said Brown would have been a sophomore, took to Twitter to express grief and shock following the news Tuesday.

“It’s crazy how someone you see everyday can suddenly just not be there anymore,” Sarah Bitner posted about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Paige Polito tweeted: “I still feel like I’m going to walk into school and he’s going to be there.”

“Ponchatoula is a family,” Ryan Cosse wrote. “No matter what tragedy is placed upon us, we’re all hurt by it and we all care for one another.”

Strickland said school officials have spoken with the parents who were in Gulf Shores with Brown and his friends to offer the children counseling.

“When school lets back in, we’ve identified his friends and can at least get started there and see what the need is,” Strickland said.

The Gulf Shores Police received a swimmer-in-distress call about 4 p.m. Sunday and searched until rip currents and light conditions forced them to suspend the search about 7 p.m. that night.

The search continued throughout the day Monday, with air support from Alabama State Police and a sonar-equipped Orange Beach Fire and Rescue boat.

Efforts were again suspended in the water about 6:40 p.m. Monday, while beach patrols continued to comb the shores.

When the teen was reported missing Sunday, there was a yellow flag on the beach indicating medium-strength surf and currents, Coleman said. There was a single red flag up Monday, indicating dangerous rip tides.