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Tragic end to Stratford music lover's heavy metal cruise

Bryce Rutledge, of Stratford, went overboard on a Norwegian cruise ship last weekend. A U.S. Coast Guard search was unsuccessful

Loved ones are remembering a Stratford man known for his love of music, photography and collectibles after he went overboard on a cruise ship. 

Bryce Rutledge, 41, was part of a 'Headbangers Boat Cruise', held Oct. 31 to Nov. 4 on the Norwegian Pearl.

A spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Lines told StratfordToday the Norwegian Pearl was notified that a guest went overboard while the ship was sailing near the Bahamas on its way to Miami last Friday morning. 

“The authorities were immediately notified and the United States Coast Guard search and rescue operation went underway. After an extensive search in cooperation with the United States Coast Guard it was unfortunately unsuccessful. The investigation is ongoing, and we will share updates as appropriate. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones during this difficult time.”

Further details about the incident were not immediately available.

Rutledge, originally from St. Marys, worked in the aviation and automotive sectors. He was well-known for his photography skills, particularly for images of Transformers, according to a number of his friends sharing condolences on the 'Transformers World' website. 

Brody Osterling, who said Rutledge was his best friend for more than two decades, called Rutledge a "great man with a heart larger than life".

"He was very driven and he succeeded at everything that was dear to him," he told StratfordToday. 

Osterling said Rutledge loved music "to his core" and spent most of his time attending concerts and "just being around people who shared his passion."

The inaugural Headbanger’s Boat cruise was headlined by Lamb of God, an American heavy metal band, and 'heavy artists from both past and present', according to its website. 

Media reports in the U.S. indicated that the search was at least nine hours in duration and it took place in rough waters, making an already arduous search that much more difficult. 

Reached for comment, the U.S. Coast Guard 7th District, based in Miami, said through its public affairs department that it assisted the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in searching for a 41-year-old male, last seen on the Norwegian Pearl, 20 miles east of Cay Say Bahamas, at approximately 4 a.m., Friday. 

StratfordToday has reached out to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the lead agency in the search. 

Osterling said Rutledge had one of the largest Transformers collections in the world and it was featured on a Netflix television show. 

Eric Schwartzentruber, who counted Rutledge among his best friends, said he inspired others to collect and photograph their Transformers collections and he was always helping people find and trade them.

"He even rebuilt them," he told StratfordToday. 

Schwartzentruber said music was his passion. 

"Music was his favourite thing of all. The guy didn’t go anywhere without playing music. I think this year he’d been to almost one concert per week."

Osterling said the friends would spend many a night sitting by a fire having drinks and talking about where they came from and where they intended to take themselves.

"He was my best friend for over 21 years and I will cherish every moment we had together. He saved my life and we always took care of each other. He was a man of community and he will be loved and he will be missed by many all over the world, forever."