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SACRAMENTO – A Marine veteran died Tuesday in the South Yuba River. FOX40 spoke with his family about the tragedy.

“Life has changed forever. There’s gonna be a hole in our hearts forever,” said John Cotter, Christian’s father.

A hole that only his son, Christian Cotter, can fill.

The 23-year-old Marine veteran died Tuesday, after getting stuck in some rocks while swimming in the South Yuba River.

Since then, the family has been overwhelmed by the amount of friends, including those he met during his four years in the Marines – from Germany to North Carolina – who called them after hearing about Christian’s passing.

“Hearing some of his accomplishments and the things that he had done and the people’s lives that he touched, it just tears at your heart,” said Cotter.

Family and friends described Christian as an achiever from early on – who excelled in wrestling, and was an MMA fighter in high school, presented with a Distinguished Athlete Award by the Marines his senior year.

Christian had just completed EMT college courses to become a firefighter.

“He would’ve been an amazing firefighter, ‘cause I think he really enjoys that type of work and doing something. Helping other people out,” Cotter stated.

John says his last conversation with Christian was about the Dodgers/Giants game this Friday, which Christian got tickets to for his birthday. A game that will have two empty seats now.

“His services are Thursday at St. Mary’s. Honestly, me and my will be wife decompressing a little bit. We’re gonna be overwhelmed… people sharing their stories about my son,” Cotter said.

John says his family is getting through these tough times, with the support and love of each other.

“He was a gift from God. And so, God received him back. That’s probably what he would say, ‘hey I was His in the first place.’ That’s what gets us through … our belief,” said Cotter.

If you’d like to help, Christian’s family has also started a GoFundMe page.