It’s been a long and difficult week for the family of Jeramie Hall, the man who drowned in Lake Proctor during a Labor Day weekend outing with family.

“We are traumatized and heart broken,” said Dawna Battenfield, Hall’s aunt. “There is a big gap left in our hearts.”

Hall, 32, was a painter who lived in Stephenville. His family said he loved fishing, camping, and listening to music.

“He could sing the words to every song there is - and tell you who wrote it,” Battenfield said.

But what was most important to Hall were his two children - Mariah, 7, and Tanner, 5.

“He loved being a dad,” Battenfield said, sobbing. “He loved his kids.”

She said the children, who live in DeLeon with their mother, don’t fully understand what has happened.

“Those children are a great comfort to us now,” Battenfield said. “They are a part of him we still have.”

The family is still struggling to understand how something so horrific could have happened. Hall drowned Aug. 30 after swimming out in the lake wearing a pair of jeans. His cousin, Krystal Kilcrease, was with Hall when the accident happened. She said they had been drinking, but insisted Hall was not drunk.

“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “I was sitting on the bank watching him swim around and he seemed fine - like he was relaxing. But then something looked wrong.”

She said Hall appeared to be leaning forward in the water, “like he was trying to get his face wet.”

When Hall didn’t respond to her calls, Kilcrease swam out to check on him.

“When I lifted up his face, I realized he was unconscious and I just started screaming for someone to help me get him to shore,” she said.

Hall’s brother jumped in to help and when the two got him on the bank, they began administering CPR while friends called 911.

The family, including Hall’s mother, Gail Johnson, was camping in a different area on the lake and saw the ambulance go by. Fearing that something was wrong, Johnson drove to the sight and was told by authorities that her son had drown.

“She’s having a really hard time,” Battenfield said.

As Hall’s family tries to heal from the ordeal, questions surrounding his death still linger. How did something like this happen to a young, healthy man who was reported to be a strong swimmer?

“We have no idea how something like this could have happened,” Battenfield said. “We’re just taking it day by day.”

SARA VANDEN BERGE is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 240.