Deadly Tragedy on Lake Lanier

We regret to inform you that a pleasant family outing on Lake Lanier turned into a deadly tragedy about 11 PM Monday night, June 18, 2012.

A pontoon boat carrying more than a dozen individuals from four families in Gwinnett County was traveling on Lake Lanier between Buford Dam and Lake Lanier Islands.  In spite of having its lights on, their boat was hit head-on by a speeding center-console fishing boat, which left the scene following the accident.

Killed in the accident was a young boy – variously reported to be either 8 or 9 years old.  A 13-year-old boy on the pontoon boat is missing and is presumed to be drowned.  The boys were brothers and were with their parents.

Names were not immediately released.

The younger child’s mother and two other youths were taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

We are grateful that 11 people were safely pulled to shore due to the outstanding response from the Hall County Fire Department, Gwinnett and Forsyth County authorities, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Witnesses gave police a description of the fishing boat involved in the hit-and-run deadly crash.

According to DNR sources, the DNR ranger who responded to the accident saw the fishing boat that struck the pontoon boat as the fishing boat entered Bald Ridge Marina in Forsyth County.

Investigators went back to the marina after confirming the description of the boat that left the scene.  They found the fishing boat and made an arrest.

DNR officials announced the arrest of 44-year-old Paul J. Bennett of Cumming, GA, in connection with the crash.

Bennett faces a charge of boating under the influence (BUI).  More charges, including homicide by vessel and failing to give aid, are possible.  Bennett was taken to the Hall County Jail.

Two other people, including one woman, were on the boat when the arrest took place, but were not immediately charged.  They may face charges as the investigation continues.

Finding the missing teen’s body will not be easy.  The water is 100 feet deep near where he disappeared and there are trees on the lake bed.  A command center has been set up at Buford’s Shoal Creek Park, as emergency personnel search Lake Lanier.

DNR and Hall County Sheriff’s Office underwater search and recovery teams will use sonar to search the area.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost their loved ones.

About Author

Robert J. Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life in Gainesville, GA.
Robert has two adult daughters, seven practically perfect grandchildren and a zippy Kawasaki. Contact Robert at [email protected].

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