GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Chandler Patterson's friends say the moment he laid eyes on Alyssa, the woman who eventually became his wife, he knew he was going to marry her.
That day finally came on June 5. The newlywed died three weeks after on a boating accident on Lake Tugalo in Rabun County.
Those who knew him said he had a heart of gold, a great smile and loved his family very much. His high school friend, Sarah West, said she just saw him three weeks ago at a Walmart.
"He was telling me how excited he was to marry the love of his life," said West. "He loved Alyssa. He loved her. My heart goes out to her."
West, who said her family is close to Chandler's family, said the 27-year-old played football and basketball in high school. He graduated and in 2019 became a firefighter and EMT for the Gainesville Fire Department.
"I can't begin to tell you how much this hurts and how our town is grieving very hardly over this," she added. "I was just in disbelief. He was someone you would think was invincible."
Patterson got the "most popular" superlative in high school on 2012.
His cousin, Candi Payne-Talley, said he wanted to be like his great-grandfather, John Lee Patterson, who was a volunteer firefighter in Rabun County.
"There he was," she said. "He became a firefighter. It's unreal that the goals he did and he set, he did them. He succeeded. The goals to follow his great-grandfather's legacy as well."
She said Chandler loved fishing, hunting, his family and friends. Payne-Talley used to babysit Chandler when he was a baby.
"From a little child he was just so good-hearted and so loving," she said. "Just so caring of others. He would always light up the room with his infectious smile and personality."
Mark McKinnon, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said that Patterson and another person were on a tube in the water and being pulled by the operator of a bass boat on Saturday.
Patterson, who was not wearing a life jacket, fell off the tube, McKinnon said. The operator of the boat turned around to pick him up and "possibly ran over him in the water."
The operator of the boat was arrested for boating under the influence (BUI), McKinnon confirmed. He has been charged with several charges ranging from homicide by vessel, boating under the influence under 21 years of age, towing skier without a PFD, and operating vessel with expired registration.
"There's a little bit of comfort since they were able to retreat his body from the lake," said Payne-Talley. "I know when he was in the lake it was awful. You just don't know if you're going to get that body back. But I know that's helped a bit with coping with this.
He leaves behind his parents Breck and Lisa, a younger sister, Cylvie, his wife, Alyssa, parents-in-law Russ and Valeri, and sister-in-law Ava.
His family created an online fundraiser, hoping to raise $10,000 for his funeral and "what comes after for Alyssa as she navigates this new reality and the emotional stress it carries."