“He was a good heart,” said Werner’s father, Fred Werner. “Chance would give you the shirt off his back.”
Chance Werner was among 25 to 50 people attending a gathering at Holiday Harbor Marina in Acworth Saturday night. He drowned while playing a game where he tied a rope around his waist and the end to a shopping cart before being pushed into Lake Allatoona. Werner went down in 30 feet of water about midnight; divers recovered his body, still tied to the cart, just before 3 a.m.
Fred Werner said deputy coroner Brian Irish contacted him at 4 a.m. Sunday morning with the news of his son’s drowning.
Although police have not confirmed the presence of alcohol, Fred Werner said Irish confirmed alcohol was present and there were several adults over 21 at the gathering. According to Chance’s family, the teen had given up partying, had enrolled in the online high school James Madison High School and was working full time to provide for his 8-month-old son, Brayden.
Authorities have not spoken with the Werners, which leaves questions for the family.
“Everything is a blur, conflicting,” Fred Werner said.
The father questions whether any witnesses dove into the water after the 18-year-old — who he described as a “water rat” and “experienced” swimmer who grew up on the Etowah River.
“I wouldn’t say foul, foul play,” the elder Werner said when questioned about whether he suspected criminal actions. “I would say reckless [conduct].”
He also believes his son may have been a victim of reverse bullying, a problem Chance Werner faced because of his size. Fred Werner said classmates at school often attempted to pick a fight with Chance to earn a name for themselves, and perhaps Saturday night was no different.
“I think they grabbed him, tied him and threw him in,” Fred Werner said.
When asked if charges would be taken should Werner have been tied to the cart by someone else, BCSO Sgt. Jonathan Rogers on Monday said investigators are looking into that possibility.
“We are going to have to interview some more people and then we will let the DA know our findings,” he said.
The body was sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for an autopsy and was expected to be released as early as Tuesday.
A large family — Fred Werner said he had 10 children and 16 grandchildren — Chance’s passing is a second death for the family. The Werners lost a 30-year-old son 3 1/2 years ago to a massive heart attack brought on by a heart problem where there is hardening in the heart arteries and walls. Chance was diagnosed with the same illness shortly thereafter.
Fred Werner spoke Tuesday of the support from the community, including Euharlee Police Chief Terry Harget and council members. The family established accounts where residents can offer support to fund Chance Werner’s funeral expenses. Those are available at www.gofundme.com/ChanceWerner or any Wells Fargo at 770-387-3115 and donate directly to the “Chance Werner Donation Account.”