Tommie Woodward gained fame in his death on a July night nearly two years ago, and his family has been trying to keep people from laughing about his demise ever since. Thomas Golianopoulos writes for BuzzFeed about the tragic end to the 28-year-old's life when he jumped into a bayou in Orange, Texas, next to Burkart's Marina, despite signage warning about a recently spotted alligator. Victoria LeBlanc, who was hanging out with Woodward at the burger joint that night, actually saw a gator come out from under a dock right before Woodward leaped into the water for a swim and alerted him to it. But LeBlanc says Woodward blew her off with his now-famous last words—"F--- that gator!"—though the bartender whipping up drinks that night contends he never said that.
But it was that supposed remark by Woodward, who ended up drowning after being pulled under by the alligator—the first person since 1836 killed by a Texas gator—in combination with the going-viral nature of social media that turned a horrific death into "irresistible content," per Golianopoulos. Memes and comments online about Woodward were mocking and merciless, leaving family and friends (including his twin, Brian) reeling. Golianopoulos talks to those left behind to capture a better picture of Woodward and their anger toward trolls who've disparaged him. He even talks to one of those trolls, who says she now knows "even stupid people have friends and family who care" but that "when people do ridiculous things … it’s pretty much human nature to immediately think, 'What an idiot.'" More on Woodward's life at BuzzFeed. (Read more Longform stories.)