Friends remember man who died swimming at Murfreesboro dam - WSMV News 4

Friends remember man who died swimming at Murfreesboro dam

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Family and friends gathered Wednesday evening to remember the life of a man who died after swimming in a popular Murfreesboro location that has become dangerous in recent days.

Nineteen-year-old James Patton, better known as "E.J." to his family and friends, died when he had some sort of medical problem while swimming in the Stones River near the Manson Pike Dam.

Emergency medical personnel said Patton may have struck a submerged object after jumping into the river.

At least one Murfreesboro firefighter and one Murfreesboro police officer were injured during the effort to reach Patton, officials said.

"He told my son, 'Watch me dive,' and those were the last words he said," said family member Alena Gilbert.

Gilbert says those words will haunt her for the rest of her life.

"My son said E.J. wasn't breathing. It wasn't real to me at all," Gilbert said.

She said Patton insisted she drop him off at the river because he was hot and wanted to cool off.

"I'm just lost and devastated," Gilbert said.

Patton was at the Manson Pike Trailhead with 9-year-old Logan Gilbert and 13-year-old Anthony Brown when the accident happened. They say he jumped off a muddy mound underneath the bridge and hit his head on a rock.

"He jumped off the shore into the water, and he broke his neck and was paralyzed," Logan Gilbert said.

Patton was loved by many, and those who know him say he made everyone around him laugh.

"He was like the happiest person on earth. There was never a dull moment," said friend Joseph Green.

Friends say Patton died doing what he loved best: swimming.

"For that to happen while he was doing what he loves, it makes it easier in a way," said friend Lani Gregory.

Rescuers have been called four times to the same location since Sunday, and they are posting signs nearby to warn swimmers of the river's dangers. They say there are submerged rocks and other objects, and while the water may appear calm at the surface, the current below could be strong due to recent rains.

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