Rabun County man charged with fatal boating accident
State game wardens have charged a Mountain City man in the weekend death of a Gainesville firefighter killed in a boating accident on Lake Tugalo.
Kaplin Stacy Mitchell faces multiple charges including first degree homicide by boat and navigation under the influence over the death of Chandler Patterson. Patterson, 27, died on Saturday after being struck by a bass boat, officials said Mitchell was driving.
Mitchell was pulling Patterson and another person behind the boat on a tube when Patterson fell into the water, MNR spokesperson Mark McKinnon said. When Mitchell turned around to pick it up, the boat struck Patterson, sinking him. Patterson was not wearing a life jacket.
Researchers spent more than eight hours over two days searching for the missing firefighter. DNR Game Wardens located him on Sunday and the Oconee County, South Carolina, dive team recovered his body in 117 feet of water around 12:30 p.m.
Mitchell was arrested after the accident on Saturday night and held in the Rabun County Detention Center. His bail was set at $ 10,500, according to jail records.
Originally charged with BUI, officials added the other charges after Patterson’s body was discovered. In addition, they accused Mitchell of failing to set the speed, operating a boat without a registration, and not wearing or having personal flotation devices on hand.
McKinnon says the agency’s critical incident response team is investigating the crash. He says the investigation could take six to eight weeks.
Colleagues mourn the loss
Chandler Patterson was a paramedic and firefighter who had worked for the Gainesville Fire Department since June 2019. In a memorial posted to his Facebook page, the department said he was spending time with family and friends on the lake when the accident has happened.
“Chandler was a super nice person with an amazing personality! the post says. “He made everyone around him smile with his laid back and caring demeanor. He will be sorely missed! “
The Gainesville Fire Departments lowered their flags half-length in memory of Patterson, whom his colleagues call “a great person, a great firefighter and a great friend!”
“We ask you to keep his family and his fiery family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
Lake Tugalo is a 597-acre reservoir located on the Georgia-South Carolina border. It is the fifth in a series of six lakes created by Georgia Power’s hydroelectric dams and fed by the Tallulah and Chattooga rivers.