Jeffery Filmeck's black pickup truck gleamed in the Easter sunshine yesterday outside his parents' Woodbridge home, but the husky teen-ager won't be back to claim it.
The 17-year-old's body was pulled Saturday from the Occoquan River, where his parents surmise he drowned trying to save the life of his older brother Jim after a canoe accident a month ago. The search for 18-year-old Jim's body is continuing.
"If one went in the water, the other couldn't leave without him," John Filmeck, the boys' father, said yesterday, as he paused from the search that has drawn him to the Occoquan's edge every day since the boys disappeared during a morning canoe trip March 8. "They were that close. We've always known that."
Sitting in the living room of the modest brick house the brothers shared with their parents, the weary Filmeck said he believes the canoe carrying the two youths was caught by a strong gust of wind on that March morning.
After Jim was spilled out, he said, Jeff apparently peeled off his jacket and one of his sneakers and jumped in after him. The jacket and shoe were later found in the water.
Although Jeff was a certified scuba diver and both boys were experienced canoeists, their father said, water temperatures below 40 degrees apparently sent the pair into shock and evenutally led to their deaths.
"They were probably gone within minutes, and that's a comfort," said Filmeck, 42, a General Services Administration communications specialist and former Navy officer. "there was a few minutes of panic, knotting of muscles, and after that they just went to sleep."
Prince William County police recovered the body after two unidentified fishermen sighted it floating near Ryan's Dam in the Occoquan Reservoir on Saturday. Police said the body had gone undiscovered for a month because cold spring temperatures prevented it from rising to the water's surface.
Filmeck, who has led his own search party of family members every day since the boys disappeared, is bitter over what he says were repeated rebuffs from local law enforcement authorities to his pleas for help.
"Dragging a river is work -- a hell of a lot more work than riding a boat along the side of the river and looking in," said Filmeck. He said Prince William County police conducted only a token search until he took his complaints to the county board of supervisors and the news media.
"They were just intending for nature to take its course and let these boys float to the surface," said Filmeck, who added that he conducted the first week of his search with only the help of his two brothers and eldest son.
"But that wasn't enough. If your sons are out there, you want to bring them home as quick as you can."
Preliminary results of an autopsy conducted yesterday indicated that Jeff Filmeck's death was caused by drowning. Police said they have no reason to suspect foul play in his death.
Both Jeff, a senior at Woodbridge High School, and Jim were employed by the Woodbridge-based Marine Structural Applications Co., where they helped build and repair docks.
Jeffrey was always a "hustler and a plugger," said his father remembering his youngest son's performance as a lineman on his high school football team. His brother was obsessed with rebuilding cars and motorcycles, the family said.
The boys' mother, Catherine, curled tightly into a corner of a living-room armchair, said her sons were "good boys" whose death left her a life that could never be normal again.
"The Lord felt it was their time to go and that's what we have to live with," she said. "He picked two of the best."