The shocking death of Shain Gandee, who was found dead Monday morning in a vehicle in Sissonville, W. Va. along with his uncle and a third person, has affected many, but no one is struggling with the awful news more than his loved ones.
"What has happened is just so tragic," his cousin, Ashley Gandee Lewis tells E! News, "I cannot believe I was just hugging him on Saturday."
Gandee attended the grand opening of Lewis' new store, Gandee's General Store in Crown City, Ohio, over the weekend, and Ashley recalls Shain being his usual, charismatic self. "He was normal Shain. He was laughing, passing out free hugs and talked to every person in-depth that came up to him. He wasn't stuck-up or anything. He acted super-personal and respectful and amazing to everyone."
Lewis also says that Shain's parents are taking their loss extremely hard. "You can't console them. They are just devastated. They just lost their baby. God has a plan for everybody; why this was his plan for him we don't know, we don't understand why and we don't understand what exactly happened."
Katie Whitt, a longtime friend of Shain's who filmed with him during the first season of Buckwild, also expressed how his death has affected her and the Sissonville community.
"I answered the phone and [my mom] was crying, saying they found Shain at the Holler and he is dead," Whitt says of finding out about Gandee's death. "He had been missing, he didn't have a cell phone. There are a lot of things that can happen overnight, you don't have a cell phone and people wouldn't know. I told my mom, 'Please tell me you're joking.'"
Unfortunately, it was no joke, and the news quickly began to spread across Sissonville—including to Kansas Whiting, who dated Gandee in middle school and high school. Whitt says Kansas is having a difficult time dealing with the tragedy.
"She truly loves him with all her heart," Whitt told E! News. "Their families are so close. I always thought that they would be getting married."
She added that the death was such a shock because "he knows the woods like the back of his pants."
Both Lewis and Whitt tell E! News that a memorial for Shain is currently being put together.
"I want people to remember him as fun, funny, that he was a good hometown, family country boy who enjoyed his life and his family who has a great heart, and he loved every person that he came in contact with," Lewis tells E! News.
"He was there for whoever needed him. He was there for me at my opening, without hesitation. He has turned into this big star and he is my cousin, but he didn't want money to come and help me out, he did it for nothing. That is just who he is."