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Gainesville firefighter dies in tubing accident on Lake Tugalo
Chandler Patterson
From left, Gainesville Fire Department Ret. Deputy Fire Chief Scott Stowers, Firefighter/EMT Chandler Patterson and Fire Chief Jerome Yarbrough

A Gainesville firefighter died in a weekend tubing incident on a lake in Rabun County with friends and family. The boat operator has been charged with boating under the influence.

Chandler Patterson, 27, a Gainesville Fire Department firefighter/EMT, was with another person on a tube being pulled behind a bass boat Saturday, June 26, on Lake Tugalo on the Georgia/South Carolina border.

Patterson fell off the tube, Georgia Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mark McKinnon said. 

“The operator of the boat turned around to pick him up and possibly ran over him in the water,” McKinnon wrote in an email. “The operator was arrested for BUI.”

Kaplan Mitchell, 20, of Clayton, was charged with homicide by vessel, boating under the influence under the age of 21, towing a skier without a personal flotation device, operating a vessel with insufficient personal flotation devices and operating a vessel with expired registration, McKinnon said.

Patterson was not wearing a life jacket. The Oconee County dive team recovered Patterson’s body around 12:30 p.m. Sunday in 117 feet of water. 

DNR is still investigating and likely will not have further information for months.

Patterson had worked with the fire department since June 2019.

“Chandler was a super friendly person with an incredible personality,” the fire department said in a statement. “He brought smiles to everyone around him with his laid back and caring demeanor. He will be missed dearly.”

The fire department said the flags would be at half-staff at each of its stations in Patterson’s honor.

A funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Friday, July 2, at the Rabun County High School Fine Arts Building and will be live streamed, according to Patterson's obituary with Beck Funeral Home. 

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