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Overnight Boating Accident on Lake Lanier Leaves One Child Dead

Authorities continue to search for a second child in the water.

A boating incident at Lake Lanier late Monday night left a 9-year-old boy dead and another missing, according to the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Authorities are searching for the missing 13-year-old boy.

The operator of the boat that struck a pontoon boat carrying the teen, the 9-year-old and others has been arrested and charged with Boating Under the Influence, according to Wildlife Resources Division Law Enforcement officials.

Paul J. Bennett, 44, of Cumming, was driving a center-console boat that struck a pontoon boat carrying 13 people at about 10:30 p.m. Monday in the Shoal Creek area on southern Lanier, according to investigators. The collision left as many as five people in the water. The 9-year-old died at the scene.

The search for the 13-year-old involves divers from agencies including Hall, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, as well as DNR’s side-scan sonar, a device used to find and identify objects underwater.

Three others on the pontoon boat were injured in the incident. They were treated and released from an area hospital.

Bennett left the scene, according to investigators. A DNR ranger responding to the accident saw the boat he was operating as it entered Bald Ridge Marina in Forsyth County. Investigators later returned to the marina and found the boat. DNR offices arrested Bennett at about 1:30 a.m. at the marina. A woman riding in the boat with Bennett at the time of the collision was not arrested.

The pontoon boat was also recovered.

DNR’s Critical Incident Reconstruction Team is investigating the incident, including whether the boats had the proper lights and whether they were in use.

Other agencies assisting at the scene include Hall, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties and the Hall County District Attorney’s office.

(Editor's Note: This is a press release from Melissa Cummings of the Department of Natural Resources)

Vanzetta Evans (Editor) June 19, 2012 at 04:32 PM
This is so very sad. Is it just me, or have there been a good number of fatal accidents on the lake lately? I've lived in coastal cities and places with a lot more lakes and it seems there were not as many drownings or accidents as there have been at Lake Lanier this year. What do you guys think?
Sharon Swanepoel June 19, 2012 at 04:41 PM
I think you're right Vanzetta. This is very early in the season to have such a high a toll. This is the second overnight fatal accident and looks like it will leave 3 dead in boating accidents alone on Lake Lanier so far this year. So sad. It horrifies me because my kids (and grandkids) so often spend the night on their boats on the lake. Two of them have boats with cabin. I just saw on WSBTV that nine of the 13 on this boat were kids, the one killed and the missing teen were brothers. So terribly, terribly tragic.
Alex Bresach June 19, 2012 at 09:44 PM
the boy missing went to my school. His name was Griffen Prince. He was also my brothers friend and this is the second death from our school this year. :(
Sharon Swanepoel June 19, 2012 at 09:55 PM
I am so sorry to hear that Alex. This is such a tragedy and our thoughts are with the whole family. However, we do have to wait for the authorities to release the names before we can official put that information out there. Do you know what city the family is from though?
JAMES SHEPPARD June 20, 2012 at 09:06 PM
A SAD TRADEGY, THE MISSING BOY COULD HAVE BEEN DRAGGED AWAY FROM THE ACCIDENT SCENE BY THE FLEEING BOAT, AND COULD BE FAR FROM THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT? I'M SURE EVERY AREA WILL BE SEARCHED BETWEEN THE ORIGINAL SCENE AND BALD RIDGE MARINA AREA IT'S A VERY LARGE AREA TO SEARCH, PRAY FOR THE QUICK RECOVERY OF THE YOUNG MAN.
Sherry June 26, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Boating while drinking ... I can only hope that he will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. What a tragedy

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