The body of a Western Carolina University graduate was found around Noon on Friday, June 4 in the Tuckaseigee River west of Dillsboro after hours of searches conducted by area officials.
The deceased was identified as 22-year-old Allen Stanley Brisson of Fayetteville, who received a bachelor’s degree in management from WCU in May.
An underwater camera helped rescuers locate Brisson’s body in water 8-10-feet deep about two miles downstream from where he was last seen by friends floating down the river on Thursday, June 4, according to Kelli Richmond, public information officer for the Jackson County Rescue Squad. Friends reported Brisson missing shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, and a search involving more than 60 emergency responders commenced shortly thereafter.
“They saw him go under and they never saw him surface again,” she said. “This was just a group of friends who had gone out for the day.”
About eight people were in the group with Brisson, and they were all using inflatable pool chairs in the river when he disappeared.
“Those devices are meant only for pool usage,” Richmond said. “The only type of rafts that should be used in the Tuckaseigee are those rated for swiftwater activities. Mr. Brisson also was not wearing a life preserver.”
Alcohol is also a possible factor in the incident as some members of Brisson’s group said they had been drinking, according to Richmond. She said that the group members were in the water on their own and were not part of any river tour group.
Authorities will have to wait until a toxicology report is received to determine how much, if any, alcohol was in Brisson’s body, said Capt. Steve Lillard of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the death.
In addition to the Jackson County Rescue Squad, agencies from Swain, Macon and Haywood counties and the Cherokee Indian Reservation participated in the search. A Mission Hospital helicopter from Asheville was also used to search from the air as Brisson’s friends and family members watched from the bank at a command post set up along U.S. 74.
Brisson remembered by those who knew him
Brisson, a beloved brother of the Kappa Alpha Order and a friend to many in the Western Carolina community, was said to be a leader, friend, and most importantly a joyful character that was full of inspiring life.
For those who knew him, he was a unique individual that could walk into a room of bored college students have their faces smiling and laughing in an instant. He had a certain character that inspired many friends and family through his ability to show others that they could shine just as he did.
Many friends and loved ones will always remember Allen for his passion and joy for life. He enjoyed the simple things in life, enjoying his personal relationships with friends, spending time outdoors, and always making the most of the moment.
Allen’s drowning has affected many in different ways. But just as he would want, his family and friends most celebrate his life and not his death and learn from the heartbreak that has affected many.
When the news was confirmed of Brisson’s death, all of Allen’s friends were not quite sure what to make of his passing.
“I originally found out that he was missing. I was certain that he was going to make it but when the news that he had passed I was in complete disbelief and shock,” said Daniel Eichstadt, a friend and fraternity brother of Allen.
When asked about if the incident has affected his thoughts about consuming alcohol Eichstadt said “Definitely. I realize that alcohol is not a game and all those safety warnings are really there for a good reason. You must use responsibility every time you decide to consume alcohol.”
Overall, Brisson was said to be a great leader for everyone in the Greek community. Everyone loved his influence and his great smile.
Hannah Weant, a member of Phi Mu fraternity and a close friend of Brisson, said “Allen’s death definitely makes a difference. It makes you realize that you’re not invincible and safety is always important when consuming alcohol. I learned that you really have to be careful and you can’t take anything for granted. I am sorry for his loss and will always remember him.”