It was an unimaginable tragedy.
Now, one year later, the family and friends of Ty Patterson, have joined together to remember a man described as selfless in life and a hero in death.
Friday marked the one-year anniversary when Patterson, a 28-year-old Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden, drowned in the Paluxy River while searching for Courtney Butler.
Butler, a 16-year-old Stephenville girl, had gone missing the day before during an outing with friends. The teen was pulled from the river days later after an exhaustive search effort.
Major Butch Shoop, director of the Parks and Wildlife Fort Worth region, said Patterson’s family, friends, co-workers, and even those who tried to save him, gathered Friday for a private memorial service held at the site where he drowned.
“We all stood together at 8 (a.m.), about the time that Ty fell into the water,” Shoop said. “At 8:15, about the time he was pulled out, we all said a prayer.”
For Patterson’s family, it was an emotional day and the first time to visit the site where their son and brother had died.
Joe Patterson, Ty’s older brother, said the family finds solace in knowing he “didn’t die alone.” The fact that he lost his life while trying to help someone else is also comforting.
“We’re coping with it, but it’s been a tough year,” Joe Patterson said. “It’s comforting to know that so many people cared about Ty.”
Somervell County Sheriff Greg Doyle and three of his deputies tried to save Patterson and game warden Danny Tuggle when they fell into the raging water after their flat-bottom boat used for search and rescue operations capsized. Doyle and his crew formed a human chain to reach the men. Although they were able to save Tuggle, they were not able to reach Patterson in time.
Doyle, as well as the crew from CareFlite who tried to resuscitate Patterson, attended Friday’s memorial service.
Doyle said a crisis response trailer has been dedicated in Patterson’s name - a reminder of those who risk everything to save the lives of strangers.
Meanwhile, Shoop said Patterson’s co-workers are still struggling with his death.
“It’s been a hard year. We are still dealing with the tragedy in different ways,” Shoop said. “We will always stand by Ty’s family - and we’ll be right beside them until the bitter end.”