‘It’s been a nightmare’: Family of 18-year-old who died in boating accident starts scholarship fund in her name


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Two people died on Fort Loudoun Lake over the weekend, and we’re hearing from family and loved ones of one of the victims, identified as 18-year-old Emma Fila.

According to the incident report from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Fila was riding a personal watercraft on the lake when it collided into a concrete railroad bridge support and she was found lying face down in the water by 70-year-old Terrance Dea, who was operating a pontoon boat. Dea died trying to rescue her.

Fila’s family and loved ones are sharing their memories of the teen and how they’re moving forward with honoring her legacy.

“She was at the lake from the time she was born,” Kathy Fila, Emma’s mother, said. “We were warming bottles at the lake, you know?”

Near the water is where Emma found love and friendship during her young life.

“We actually met for the first time ever at the beach,” Cole Arden, Emma’s boyfriend, said.

The water also gave Emma’s loved ones unforgettable memories. But now, they’ll have to make new ones without her.

“It’s been a nightmare honestly. Going through this… we’ve been in a dream-like state through this whole thing,” Frank Fila, Emma’s father, said.

(Taylor Martin Photography)

“She was funny, she was a big prankster. She always brought light into the room, always made people smile, was always happy-go-lucky,” Kathy said.

“The most amazing person I’ve ever met in my entire life. Just full of light at all times, always supportive of everyone. Always supportive of me,” Arden said.

They’re taking their tragedy and using it to build Emma’s legacy; starting a scholarship in her name to help fund college expenses for other students her age.

“Everybody her age is getting ready to go off to college,” Kathy said. “They all just graduated and they’re all getting ready and we’re like maybe we can just get a little bit and share it amongst her close friends.  And then it just kind of went, wait this is getting really big. Maybe we can make a real impact.”

Through a time that seems so dark, Emma’s family says the light she left behind is what keeps them going.

“I want her to be remembered in a good way,” Arden said. “I don’t want people to be upset that she’s gone. I want people to remember the wonderful life she had. The time, the memories, the love she shared with all of us.”

“Every minute. We’re so thankful,” Kathy said.

(Taylor Martin Photography)

Emma’s memorial service will be held Wednesday, June 9. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the scholarship fund they’ve created in her name.

You can send your donation via Venmo: @EmmaFilaScholarship or donate to her account at ORNL Federal Credit Union.

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