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PORTSMOUTH The Currituck Sherrif's department and the community are continuing to search on Christmas Day for a 26-year-old man who never returned from a canoe trip in North Carolina.

Ricky Ballance of Maple was canoeing in Coinjock Bay and was expected back around 4:00 p.m. Sunday, according to his family.

His father-in-law says Ricky enjoyed duck hunting and went out on the water Sunday, even though the winds were strong, to throw corn to attract ducks.

James Parks says Ballance's canoe and waders have been found, but there's no sign of his son-in-law.

Ballance was reported overdue around 7:00 p.m. Sunday, prompting the Coast Guard to issue an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast and send a25-foot Response Boat-Small from Station Elizabeth City and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Elizabeth City.

Monday afternoon's search was centered in the woods and water around the Bells Island clubhouse at the northern end of the bay.

Parks says his daughter Jennifer married Ballance earlier this year.

He says they're praying for Ricky's safe return and the family is touched by the many friends who are showing up to help search.

He also says Ballance knew the Lord and would not be afraid of death.

'Christmas brings friends and family together, but we didn't hope for this way,' he said.

The Coast Guard search lasted into Sunday night and then resumed at first light Monday.

The helicopter search was suspended late Monday morning and Currituck Co. Sheriff's Office was taking over the investigation.

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