Rabun County, G.A. (WSPA) – A firefighter died over the weekend after a boating accident on Lake Tugalo, the Gainesville Fire Department said.
27-year-old Firefighter/EMT Chandler Patterson died Saturday night while spending time with family and friends, department officials said on Facebook.
A spokesperson with Georgia Department of Natural Resources said a bass boat was pulling Patterson and another person on a tube. The boat circled back to pick Patterson up after he came off of the tube and possibly ran over him in the water. Georgia Game Wardens and a Oconee County, SC dive team located Patterson’s body in 117 feet of water on Sunday at approximately 12:30 p.m.
“I’m heartbroken,” said a boater who goes to church with Patterson’s family. “It’s just a terrible tragedy. I was actually away when it happened, got home late last night, and it’s a real tragedy,” he said.
Gainesville Fire officials said Patterson was always generous with his time.
“He really liked doing stuff with the kids, the fire safety demonstrations and all,” said Keith Smith, Division Chief and Public Information Office for the Gainesville Fire Department. “Just a really great friendly guy. Always with a big smile on his face, and always willing to help do something if you need a little slack picked up or whatever. Chandler would be the guy to help you get it done,” he said.
Smith said Patterson had been with the department for awhile, and was always caring and an overall great person.
“Incredibly funny guy, laid back personality. And he started here in June of 2019, so he was right at his two year mark with us,” Smith said. “Just a super fun living guy. Just very very friendly. When you hear the term, never met a stranger, but that really was Chandler. He’d open up to you no matter who you were,” Smith said.
Others said his family is very well-known in the community, as Patterson lived in Braselton, Georgia.
“Great family,” a boater said. “I know they’re strong believers and I know that they believe everything is according to God’s will, and I just pray that they’ll get through it,” he added.
“We ask that you keep his family, and his fire family, in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” said Gainesville Fire Dept. officials.
Georgia DNR said Kaplan Stacy Mitchell, 20, of Clayton, Ga., was charged with homicide by vessel, boating under the influence under 21 years of age, towing skier without a PFD, operating vessel with greater than 25 hp on Tugalo Lake, operating vessel with insufficient PFDs and operating vessel with expired registration.
Georgia DNR said Patterson was not wearing a life jacket. Georgia DNR CIRT is investigating the incident.
Flags will be flown at half-staff at Gainesville fire stations in his honor.
Chandler’s family will receive friends on Friday, July 2, 2021 at the Rabun County High School Fine Arts Building from 11 a.m. – 1:40 p.m.
A celebration of life service will be held on Friday, July 2, 2021 at 2:00 pm at the Rabun County High School Fine Arts Building with Rev. Joey Thompson officiating.