Body recovered in Lake Lanier boating accident

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Searchers found the body of a young teenager Wednesday evening in connection with a June 18 boating accident on Lake Lanier that also killed his 9-year-old brother, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

After a nine-day search that involved more than 10 agencies and organizations, divers recovered 13-year-old Griffin Prince’s body in 113 feet of water, according to a Georgia DNR release.

A pontoon boat carrying the teen and 12 other people was hit by another boat about 10:30 p.m. on June 18 in Shoal Creek.

Griffin’s 9-year-old brother, Jake, also was killed. His body was recovered by his 15-year-old brother at the time of the crash.

The operator of the other boat, Paul J. Bennett, 44, of Cumming, Ga., was arrested by Wildlife Resources Division conservation rangers and charged with boating under the influence.

“The first priority was closure for the family,” DNR Maj. Stephen Adams said. “Now we can focus solely on the boating incident investigation.”

The Prince family was familiar with the water; the boys’ grandfather, Mike Prince Sr., owns Grass Shack in Buford, Ga., the dealership that sold Bennett the Sea Fox fishing boat involved in the hit-and-run accident. The grandfather told Channel 11, the Buford-based NBC affiliate, that Bennett was a regular at the dealership.

“Pray for my son and daughter-in law,” Prince Sr. told the station. “They’re going through a horrible loss. We’re supposed to be burying parents and not burying children. This is just a tragedy. It’s wrong.”

DNR spokesman Stephen Adams told the TV station that Bennett may face additional charges, including homicide, but investigators plan to collect and process more evidence from the murky waters before charging him with anything else. That could take more than 30 days.

Searchers told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that they reached the most perilous phase of their efforts on Wednesday as divers began literally climbing submerged trees as high as 60 feet, where they suspected the teen’s body was trapped.

“It’s something we usually avoid,” Hall County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks said.

At those depths divers encounter total darkness, along with the very real threat they’ll get tangled in what Wilbanks described as an underwater forest strewn with discarded fishing lines.

Click here for the Channel 11 report.

Click here for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution report.

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