Family still grieves over mysterious Idaho death
Disappearance one year ago

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 11/7/05

For siblings Ryan and Kristen Clune, it doesn't feel like a year since their older brother, Dan, disappeared in Sandpoint, Idaho.

The body of Dan Clune, a 29-year-old former Point Pleasant Beach and Matawan resident, was found Dec. 18 in the Pend Oreille River, about two miles downstream from the restaurant where he was last seen around 2 a.m. Nov. 6., police have said.

Ryan Clune said police believe his brother may have drowned after he crossed the river on a mile-long pedestrian bridge between the Sagle-area restaurant and his Sandpoint apartment.
Since then, Idaho police, have produced no further information, said Dan Clune's uncle, Lou Rainone, a Middletown lawyer who has remained in contact with Idaho detectives.

"At first I thought there would be closure when his body was found," said Rainone, brother of Dan Clune's mother, Joan. "But I don't think there will ever be closure until I find out what happened to him on that night."
The case is still under investigation by Detective Howard Burke of the Bonner County Sheriff's Office, Rainone said. Burke could not be reached for comment.

But for Ryan, 25, of Hoboken, and Kristen, 26, of Point Pleasant Beach, what happened to their fun-loving brother doesn't matter.

"I really don't think my brother just happened to fall off this bridge," Ryan Clune said, "but I really don't want to think that someone could have done anything to him. I don't think it was an accident, but sometimes, I think I would rather just believe that it was. If someone did something to him, it would just be too hard to take."
"It doesn't make a difference because no matter what happened, it won't bring my brother back," said Kristen Clune, a graphics designer in New York City.

Although the full accounts of what happened on that cold night in Idaho will not make Clune's siblings feel any better about the loss, the continuing outpouring of support has.

Dan Clune, an avid surfer, was a member of the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit environmental organization working to preserve oceans, waves and beaches, a cause Dan Clune became involved in when he discovered a needle on Point Pleasant Beach when he was 14, Ryan Clune said.

To date, the foundation has raised $8,587 in Dan Clune's name. Jenna Holland, director of membership for the California-based organization, said it is the most money ever raised in the name of a single person in the Surfrider Foundation's history.

"When you see that kind of support for someone, it really shows you how much people really cared about this guy," Holland said.

Holland said the money will go toward the Surfrider Foundation's ongoing mission, but will be used specifically toward the Surfrider Foundation's Jersey Shore chapter, one of 63 chapters the organization oversees nationwide, Holland said.

"When I was looking at the list, I was shocked by some of the people who gave money," Ryan Clune said of the list of 110 donors. "There were some real blasts from the past, names of people that my brother didn't see since elementary school."

Dan Clune first started surfing at age 9 when his family, then living in Matawan, bought a second home in Point Pleasant Beach, Ryan Clune said. He owned 12 surfboards, his favorite being a custom-made Natural Art board that still sits his parents' Point Pleasant Beach home.

Ryan Clune said his brother would surf whenever he had the chance and even at times when he wasn't supposed to.

"My mother always tells the story of how we were all on the beach and Dan was supposed to be at work and she said, "Look at that guy with the surfboard, he looks like Dan,' " Ryan Clune said. "And it turned out to be him."

Dan Clune moved to Idaho shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. After witnessing the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks from the rooftop of his Brooklyn apartment, Dan Clune felt uneasy about living in New York and escaped to Idaho where he could take advantage of his latest passion: snow-boarding.
"He taught me so many things," Ryan Clune said. "Snow-boarding was one of the things I taught him. That meant a lot to me. I haven't snow-boarded since."

While living in Idaho, Dan Clune worked as a computer engineer and spent his free time snow-boarding and frequenting local bars with friends.

"I have so many memories of him, but I think I'll never forget all those great parties we used to throw," Kristen Clune said. "He was so much fun."

So fun that Dan Clune even started his own holiday among friends and family called Super Fun Day. Ryan Clune said his brother was always bothered that August, the month of Dan Clune's birthday, was the only month that didn't include a holiday, so he started one on his own.

On Aug. 5, friends and family gathered for an all-day barbecue in Point Pleasant Beach to honor the holiday.
"When they identified his body, we had our sad goodbye," Ryan Clune said. "In August, we had our happy goodbye and on Nov. 6, we'll have our quiet goodbye."

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Surfrider Foundation in the name of Dan Clune should call (800) 743-SURF.