Year in Review: Lake Lanier raises boating safety questions

Summer: Deaths spark boating education at major tourist destination

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LAKE LANIER, Ga. — Lake Lanier was tarnished in the summer after tragedies, including one incident early in the season that killed two Buford boys and another that killed a boy reported to be the stepson of entertainer Usher.

Lake Lanier, one of the area’s major tourist destinations, attracts nearly eight million visitors a year.

On June 18, authorities said a man was boating under the influence when he crashed into a pontoon boat carrying a dozen passengers and killing two brothers.

Paul J. Bennett, 44, of Cumming, was charged with homicide in the June 18 collision that killed Jake Prince, 9, and his brother, Griffin Prince, 13, both of Buford.

According to Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh, a tentative trial date for Bennett has been set for May 20. A motions hearing is scheduled for Jan. 31.

Bennett was charged with eight counts of homicide by vessel in the first degree, four for each child, two counts of boating under the influence, two counts of reckless operation of a vessel and failing to render aid.

Jake’s body was recovered soon after the crash, but law enforcement agencies from across the state spent more than a week searching for Griffin. His body was recovered in 113 feet of water on June 27.

Bennett was indicted by a grand jury in August and has been free on bond.

The two boys were riding in a pontoon boat operated by their father, Michael Prince, and carrying other family members and friends when Bennett’s boat hit the pontoon about 10:30 p.m. June 18.

This wreck and another on July 6 that killed the 11-year-old son of entertainer Usher’s ex-wife, Tameka Foster, have increased interest in lake safety issues.

On July 6, Kile Glover, whose father is Atlanta TV executive Ryan Glover, suffered a major brain injury after Jeffrey S. Hubbard, of Atlanta, ran over him on the lake. Kile was on an inner tube with a 15-year-old girl, who was injured. Kile died July 21 in the hospital, two weeks after the incident.

The Department of Natural Resources has said Hubbard and the injured children were part of the same group on an outing at the lake.

A Lake Lanier Legislative Caucus was soon formed to discuss lake safety and other lake issues including speed limits, docking and navigation lights and boat titling.

The Lake Lanier Association also has put more importance on educating lake users about safety.

State House legislators talked about introducing laws to lower the legal alcohol limit for boaters, making it the same as the limit for operating vehicles on roads.

Georgia is one of eight states where it’s legal to operate a boat with a blood alcohol content of .10 while for those driving a car it is .08.

Five people died on the lake in 2012, including two from drownings and three boating fatalities. Since 2006, 25 boating fatalities have occurred at Lake Lanier with 17 of the deaths happening in 2011.