Beloved swim instructor found dead after being hit by vehicle on I-85

GASTONIA, N.C. — Police said a missing Gastonia man was found dead after being hit by a vehicle on Interstate 85 in Guilford County.

Investigators said 26-year-old Johnathan Mack Patterson was reported missing on Feb. 21. The next day, police said his body was found on I-85 South near Greensboro, about a mile away from his car.

According to police, it appears Patterson’s car stopped working and he was hit by a vehicle when he got out and started walking to get help. He died from his injuries.

Channel 9′s Gaston County bureau reporter Ken Lemon spoke with Patterson’s loved ones, who said he had just turned 26 years old in December.

“He was an amazing human being, and I don’t think it gets much better than that,” friend Allison Porter said.

His passion was at Open Water Adventures near the Charlotte Motor Speedway where he worked as a swim instructor.

“When he was in the water, he was free,” friend Christina Barlow said.

Patterson shared that freedom with the children he taught to swim.

“He loved his swim kids as if they were his own,” friend Sarah Batts said.

So many of Patterson’s loved ones were concerned when he didn’t return home. Although police found him on Feb. 22, family members said they weren’t notified until four days later. Police said the delay was because they had to use DNA testing to identify his body.

Police and Patterson’s family told Channel 9 no foul play is suspected.

“He was such a bright light in this darkness that we are facing,” Barlow said.

Ken Lemon also talked to Patterson’s mother who said she struggled to find peace with the news of her son’s death but said that his presence came to her Thursday morning and told her everything is going to be alright.