TAMPA (FOX 13) - An off-duty Florida Fish and Wildlife officer was killed while riding his bicycle Wednesday when he rode over a live electrical wire that had fallen down into the bike path along the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
Greg Patterson, 47, was taking his morning bike ride at around 6:40 a.m. and never saw the down line in front of him as he passed Whiskey Joe's. Rescue workers weren't able to try to help him until Tampa Electric turned off the power.
By then, Patterson had died.
The father-of-two was a Navy veteran and had been an FWC officer since 2011.
"Service was just in Greg's blood. That's what he did," said FWC Maj. Roger Young. "Nothing prepares you for having to break the news to one of your own's family members and his coworkers too."
Patterson had been involved in two live-saving efforts, one as recently as Saturday. He helped rescue a struggling boater off the Gandy Bridge. The Tampa Police Department was in the process of nominating him for a lifesaving award for his role in the rescue.
Here is TPD's account of Saturday's rescue:
"Calls were received about a capsized jet ski near the Gandy Bridge. The three citizens were being carried by the current and were struggling in the water. Our officers prevented the victims from being carried away by the tide while FWC responded to assist. Tampa Police Air Service responded and were ready to deploy the rescue raft if necessary. FWC Officers Greg Patterson and Richard Dearborn responded in their watercraft. Upon arriving, Officer Patterson dove into the water to assist the victim who was struggling the most, while holding onto the throw rope. The victims were assisted into the boat, one by one, and all three were transported to the Gandy boat ramp where Tampa Fire Rescue was waiting to assist."
In 2014, Patterson received an FWC Lifesaving Award for saving an exhausted kayaker who had been stranded in the water, while clinging for hours to an overturned vessel.
"Our hearts are hurting," Young said. "Like we always do, we stick together and we'll celebrate our great accomplishments in the community. We also come together and our FWC family will be bonding together through this."
Cherie Jacobs, a spokesperson for Tampa Electric, said it appears the strong overnight storms knocked down the power line.
"In this case, the only outage that was caused by this line being down are the street lights on the Courtney Campbell Causeway. So there were no residences with power out. There were no businesses with power out. We were not getting outage calls from people in that area," she said. "The first report that we got of this line being down was when the fire department notified us this morning of the accident."
Other cyclists on the trail today called the situation upsetting.
"There's not many places that you can ride very safely in Tampa, not very many at all," Thomas Tedesco offered. "This is one that you'd like to think you could at least get on the path and go a decent amount of distance without being worried."
It was a tough day for those wearing the FWC uniform.
"Just a tragic, tragic accident," said Major Robert Young. "This is a loss that's going to hit home for a lot of our officers."
"He loved to serve his community," Young said. "He was a very avid physical fitness activist who in very good shape and he was doing, this morning, something that he loved to do and that was biking."
Patterson joined FWC in 2011 after serving in the U.S. Navy. He was nominated for an FWC Lifesaving award in 2014 after rescuing a kayaker whose vessel overturned.
If there's anything to bring comfort to those mourning the loss, it's a cell phone video shot last weekend by Tony Acosta. He stopped his truck on the Gandy Bridge when he saw the three women who'd fallen off their jet ski.
After he dropped winch lines down into the water, he saw Officer Patterson dive into the water and began recording.
"He was amazingly calm and keeping everybody else calm just letting them know everything was going to be alright," Acosta said.
He wants everyone to see the bravery Patterson showed in the face of danger.
"It's a shame to lose anybody but somebody that helps save lives, losing their life that way is definitely a hard one to swallow," Acosta said.
Young said he's already talked to the Tampa Police about hopefully bringing some recognition to Patterson for last weekend's rescue.
Patterson's family members declined interviews. One of his daughters, however, called her father "brave" and wrote to FOX 13's Aaron Mesmer on Twitter, "I loved my dad very much, he was a wonderful guy, just it was too soon. I love you dad, RIP."