Well-known businessman and creative leader Bobby Stone died Saturday in a boating accident. He was 57.
Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency officers responded at about 6 p.m. Saturday to the call of a missing man near Hidden Harbor on Chickamauga Reservoir.
TWRA officials said a Stone had been crossing between two cabin cruisers that were tied and anchored together when he slipped and fell into the water.
Friends said Stone hit his head and quickly got lost in the murky water. At least one young man on the boat jumped in an attempt to save Stone but couldn’t find him.
Divers along with responders who used side-scan sonar and a remote-operated vehicle searched the area of the incident until midnight.
Crews resumed searching Sunday morning and quickly located Stone in about 20 feet of water. His body was transported to the Hamilton County Medical Examiner’s Office, according to a news release.
Former BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee executive and former Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce President Ron Harr has known Stone since his days at BCBST but grew closer with him in the past couple of years, he said.
“Bobby was a kind, creative soul,” Harr said Sunday. “It’s just universal how people think about him that way. He loved life. He has a huge circle of friends that are just devastated by this tragedy.”
Stone is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and was the former president and co-founder of award-winning company Atomic Films, which was founded in the 1980s and is one of the downtown’s earliest creative startups.
After retiring from Atomic Films, Stone was still a fixture in the community, often out taking photos of events, such as protests and other rallies and serving on boards, such as the Association of Visual Arts.
In 2016, Stone made headlines when he accused his then-wife Lacie Stone of having an inappropriate relationship with her boss, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. During that time, many community members rallied around Bobby Stone.
As news spread over the weekend of Stone’s unexpected death, friends expressed shock and heartache.
Harr said it was difficult for him not to talk about Stone in the present tense. He often boated with Stone and said he was still in shock.
Stone had two dogs that he loved, and his creativity bled into music and other projects, Harr said.
“He loved to read; he loved music,” Harr said. “He piddled around on the piano and had an upright bass….he loved doing things himself. He had a 3D printer in his office and was always making parts for his boat.”
President and CEO of the Tennessee Aquarium Keith Sanford knew and worked with Stone for 40 years.
“He was as nice of a guy as you could know, a true friend to all, and he would stick with you through tough times,” he said via email Sunday. “I put him on the AVA board because of his love of film, and on the Tivoli board because of his love for music and film. He worked amazingly hard on both boards, giving countless hours of his time including traveling out of town to get ideas. He will be missed.”
Sanford also said he expects the Tivoli to have an announcement soon about how to honor him.
To share memories or thoughts about Stone and his legacy for possible publication in later articles on this developing story, email [email protected] or call 423-304-9693.
Updated at 4:02 p.m. Aug. 5 to correct Bobby Stone’s age and add more information as it became available.