CHALMETTE, LA (WAFB) - Search and rescue crews say they have recovered the body of a Zachary boater reported missing near Chalmette on Thursday.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) reports Haskin Payne III, 44, fell overboard while fishing with his wife on Bayou Bienvenue in St. Bernard Parish.
Agents say the incident was originally reported around 5 p.m. Thursday. Payne's body was recovered around 6 p.m. Friday evening. The St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office Marine Division, the U.S. Coast Guard, and LDWF assisted in search and rescue efforts.
"Our early investigation leads us to believe he was not able to swim," said Lt. Jason Russo with LDWF.
Family members and friends passed along the tragic news and already, an outpouring of love and support from those who knew him best is flooding social media. One friend called him "the most awesome human being anyone has personally known." Another said "his memories will live on and his body is absent but his presence can't be denied."
"That was him, you know," said Michael Linton. "He was a great student, great athlete, and great guy.
Linton is not surprised at the amount of positive messages on his social media account. He played football with Payne and the two of them graduated from Woodlawn High School in 1993. Linton calls him the kind of person everyone was better for knowing.
"I don't have words for it because he did everything right, you know," said Linton. "He did everything right and for him to have that accident, there are just a lot of feelings of not fair."
An avid fisherman, Payne was on the water with his wife late Thursday when the incident happened. LDWF says SBPSO deputies were first on the scene and found Payne's wife in the boat on the bank of the bayou. Authorities say she was taken to University Hospital in New Orleans to be treated for hypothermia.
Investigators say Payne's wife told them her husband slipped and fell into the water while they were fishing. They added Payne's wife jumped in after him, but could not get him back into the boat. LDWF agents add neither was wearing a life jacket at the time of the incident. LDWF will lead the investigation.
Before hearing any details, Linton says when he first heard Payne may be dead, his mind immediately went to one of two things. "I said it had to be either a work accident or fishing and low and behold, it was fishing, you know," Linton added.
Linton says the only comfort is knowing Payne died doing something he absolutely loved. "I'm glad he was out there doing something he loved and it wasn't something, to put it bluntly, sinister or violent, or you know, wrong," said Linton.
While his heart is hurting, Linton offers thoughts and prayers for the unimaginable pain the family is going through, but chooses to remember all the good times he shared with a good friend.
"He was an outstanding javelin and discus thrower and he also was a heck of a linebacker," said Linton.