CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) - Family members are telling us more about the two brothers from Cleveland than simply how they died. They drowned on a fishing trip to Lake Louise, in Alaska Friday.
Family members tell us 59-year-old Steve Kirkpatrick and 56-year-old Jeff Kirkpatrick were fishing with their brother in law and a long-time friend. They were aboard a rented 14 foot boat having a great time, but when they started to leave their fishing spot, they both died in a quick chain of events.
"It's unbelievable. I mean it's one of those freak accidents that's just really hard to accept," victims' nephew Corey Lovelace said.
Nephew Corey Lovelace says his surviving uncle on the trip called explaining how the tragic scene unfolded. They'd all worn life jackets, but had taken them off while they fished. Steve started the boat engine and fell into the water when the boat moved. Jeff jumped in to try to save him, but both died.
"He had that kind of attitude where if his brother is in trouble, he's going to help him no matter what. He would lay his life on the line and I know Steve would've done the same thing," Corey said.
He says that's just the kind of men his uncles were. "Whatever you needed, they were definitely there and willing and it was somebody you could go to talk to," Corey said.
They were close with their family. They were both dads and husbands. Both loved the outdoors. You can tell by their proud smiles in a photo taken on their trip earlier this week.
"Absolutely loved to fish, camp, hike. They went out there on a yearly trip and they absolutely loved it," Corey said.
Steve Kirkpatrick owned his own embroidery shop in Cleveland. Corey says he was always smiling and joking. "Very funny. He had this sense of humor that nobody else had," Corey said.
Jeff worked at the Bradley County Jail, but left recently. "He was always the one we'd look up to and try to impress. He was the combat guy," Corey said.
He says he can only think of him with happy memories. "He'd be like, 'Hey boy!' That's what he would do and I know that's what he's doing right now as he's watching," Corey said.
Though he says it's hard to except they're both gone, the family takes comfort in one thing. "They were both Godly people. Inspirational people. We know where they are now, so we're happy," Corey said.
Their sister, Kim Calfee, calls them exceptional men, whose lives were well-lived. She says she also takes comfort in knowing they died in a beautiful place, doing what they loved.
The family is making arrangements to bring them back from Alaska to Buckner Funeral Home in Cleveland for services, but say that will likely take a few days.