The Florida Fish and Wildlife officer who died Wednesday morning has been described by his colleagues as a lifesaver.
Gregory Patterson, 47, was riding his bicycle along the Courtney Campbell Causeway just before 7 a.m. on July 13. According to reports, he ran over a downed power line.
Crews were forced to wait 15 minutes while TECO Energy cut off power to the live wire. During that time, no first responder could help Patterson.
He died at the scene.
“Our entire FWC family is in mourning for Greg,” said Col. Curtis Brown of the FWC in a statement to the media. “We will never forget his service and sacrifice, and can never repay that debt to his family. He was a true public servant at heart, and we will miss him deeply.”
A spokesperson from the power company said they had no idea a downed power line was the reason lights in the area had stopped working.
According to co-workers, Patterson’s was a “fantastic” officer, who particularly loved working with children.
Just last weekend, colleagues say, Patterson rescued someone who was near drowning in the Bay.
Tony Acosta shot video of the daring rescue where three women were on a sinking jet ski.
“He was in the water before the boat even stopped that I saw,” said Acosta. “Very calm coming over, grabbing two of them, keeping them completely calm.”
Eventually Patterson got all three women safely on to a rescue boat. One of those women was 18-year-old Leticia Mejia. Speaking via Skype from Georgia, Mejia said Patterson was calm and reassuring.
“I remember I was there crying, I was crying for my parents and I remember him telling me that it was OK, that he wasn’t going to let me go, that he was going to take me back to my parents and that everything was going to be OK,” she said.
At FWC headquarters, fellow officers say they weren’t surprised to hear about what Patterson did. They say he was involved in a number of life-saving calls during his five-year career with FWC.
“Officer Patterson was an outstanding officer, he was an outstanding public servant and he was a champion conservation law enforcement officer,” said FWC Major Roger Young.
Fellow officers say one of Patterson’s favorite things to do was to go into classrooms and teach kids about nature. They say he enjoyed biking and working out because he wanted to be in shape for the job.
Mejia said she’s grateful he was there for her.
“And I want to tell his family thank you, that he saved my life and I hope they get through this,” Mejia said.
Tampa police were in the process of honoring Patterson for his life-saving efforts over the weekend. His supervisor has been in touch with the chief and he says they’re working to still make that happen for his family.
Patterson was retired from the U.S. Navy. He began his service with the FWC in 2011.