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Gulf workers find message in a bottle from grieving soldier's family

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Message in a bottle travels 1,300 miles
  • Gulf oil cleanup crew finds four letters in a bottle
  • The letters were written by relatives of a Welsh soldier slain in Afghanistan
  • They put the bottle in the Atlantic Ocean at Barbados

(CNN) -- Doug Kirchoff doesn't think chance explains why a bottle full of messages washed up on the shore of Horn Island, Mississippi.

Kirchoff, the supervisor of a crew doing cleanup after the BP oil spill, was astonished by the content of the four letters found inside the bottle last month.

"What we found was it was about a soldier that lost his life in the Afghanistan war and his family had written him a series of letters kind of sharing their thoughts and emotions," Kirchoff said Thursday.

In them, family members wrote letters to their beloved son and brother, Pvt. James Prosser, 21, a Welsh soldier who was killed in September 2009.

"Each person when we unwound the letters, started opening one letter at a time and reading one letter at a time," Kirchoff said. "As we found out after about two letters the whole occasion turned real somber and we were kind of taken aback and were like, 'Wow! This is a little more than we anticipated at first.'"

Video: Message in a bottle to fallen soldier

In January, Prosser's mother, Sarah Adams, her son, her daughter and the latter's boyfriend dropped the bottle in the Atlantic Ocean at Barbados, 1,300 miles from the Mississippi coast, Adams said.

It was a bottle of sambuca, his favorite, she said, and each of them sipped sambuca themselves in Prosser's honor when the bottle was launched.

Kirchoff said finding the bottle was like something out of a Hollywood movie. He and the cleanup crew managed to find the family through the internet and contacted them, according to news reports. They also signed a T-shirt and sent it to Adams, Kirchoff said.

He sees a parallel between Prosser's death and the oil spill disaster.

"It seems too good to be true. Both of us fighting different tragedies," Kirchoff said. "One in war and us fighting the battle with the oil spill. It just seems like it was just meant to be."

"It does feel like ... our crew was destined to find this bottle."

Prosser's mother agrees. She told CNN's Kyra Phillips on Friday: "I think the bottle took the journey it was meant to make. Somehow it was meant to turn up there, and with those guys."

Sarah Adams said she and her family had all but forgotten about the bottle they dropped in the ocean when they were on vacation. She said it was more about honoring Prosser, not about someone finding the bottle.

Adams related part of its contents: "I am and always will be so proud of you, James. Not only because you were a soldier, but more so because of the wonderful, honorable young man you were. ... Your gorgeous smile will stay with me always."

She hopes that someday she will be able to see the place where the bottle washed ashore. In the meantime, she said, she is asking that the workers who found it seal it and keep it.

CNN's Jonathan Wald and journalist Christopher Turner contributed to this report.