Savannah boating accident on Wilmington River kills 5 – what we know — Savannah Morning News

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Memorial Day weekend is an extremely popular time for recreational boaters to hit the water, but what was supposed to be a fun day around the water ended in tragedy after a deadly boat crash.

What happened in the Wilmington River boat wreck?

According to a  Georgia Department of Natural Resources   spokesperson, two boats traveling in opposite directions collided on Saturday morning near the Oatland Island Wildlife Center docks where Richardson Creek meets the Wilmington  River. The boats carried nine people in total. After the collision, one boat sank and the other was badly damaged.

Three people were listed as missing in the particular hours after the accident. All three bodies were recovered at approximately 9  a. m. Sunday within 14-foot deep water and in close proximity to each other, according to a release from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

How many people died in the crash?

The collision caused five fatalities: Chris Leffler, 51, and his wife, Lori, 50, their sons Nate, 17, and Zach, 23, as well as 37-year-old Savannah resident Robert Stephen Chauncey.  

Aside from the five fatalities, another of the Leffler’s children, daughter Katie, survived the crash as did an unidentified friend. Another  unidentified person on the other boat also survived with minor injuries.

More: Four Savannah family members among five killed in Wilmington Water boat crash

What caused the accident?

The cause of the particular crash is still unknown and under investigation by Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Critical Incident Reconstruction Team (CIRT). The inquiry  may take 6 to 8 weeks to conclude.

Why was Mark Stegall arrested?

According to the Georgia Division of Natural Resources, Savannah resident Mark Christopher Stegall, 45, was charged along with boating under the influence in connection with the accident. Stegall was the operator of the boat carrying Chauncey plus another unidentified passenger.  

However, DNR investigators have not determined whether alcohol was a contributing factor in the accident.

More: Charges filed in Memorial Day weekend boat crash on Wilmington Lake that left 5 dead

Leffler family, Stephen Chauncey remembered

Chris,   Lori, Nate and Zach Leffler were remembered in a tribute   posted Thursday.

It reads, in part, “They most enjoyed spending time with their beloved family, making memories on vacation whether white water rafting, biking, hiking, playing board games, or golf. Their most recent adventure has been last year in Hawaii where the family celebrated Lori and Chris’ 25th anniversary and renewed their own wedding vows. ”

Related: Leffler family, Stephen Chauncey kept in mind for their effects upon community, family, friends

Stephen Chauncey’s family said in a statement , “Stephen was a good American hero, a hero to his little girl plus a hero to his family and friends, he will be greatly missed and his loss leaves a hole in the particular lives of many. ”

How common are boating accidents?

Nearly 50%  of boating accidents in Georgia are caused by collisions with another boat or an object, according in order to the Georgia Department associated with Natural Resources.

Earlier this month, Savannah  businessman Joe Moore was killed when a boat he had been aboard struck an unlit channel marker near the Savannah Yacht Club, and he was hit within the head by an unknown object.

How can boaters stay safe?

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Following fatal crash in Savannah, what do we need to know about boat safety?

Georgia DNR official Mark McKinnon offers some vessel safety tips that people should remember before heading out within the water this particular summer.

Savannah Morning News

Listen to the full podcast with Georgia DNR official Mark McKinnon here

DNR  has a set of safety and operational regulations to ensure that Georgia boaters enjoy the water while staying safe.  

One of their particular most important rules is the 100-foot law, which requires all operators of all kinds of boats to slow to idle speed whenever they are within 100 feet of docks, piers, bridges, shorelines or individuals in the water.  

When it comes to how to pass another motorboat, there are  a specific set of rules:

  • When meeting an additional vessel, boat operators should pass on the right side unless the boats are far enough apart that will they are not meeting head-on or close to head-on.
  • On narrow rivers and streams, boaters should stay as far right as possible plus be careful when rounding bends and curves, and overtaking or passing some other boats.
  • In a crossing situation, the ship on the right ought to hold its course plus the boat on the particular left should slow down and cross behind the other boat.

DNR also encourages the use of life jackets, especially for kids.

According in order to Georgia boating laws, anyone born before Jan. 1, 1998,   may legally operate any boat or even small vessel on Georgia state waters if they have a proper identification card, such as a driver’s license or any other government-issued identification that contains a description of the person, a photograph, and the date of birth, on board.

Can I vessel under the influence?

The Georgia Boat Safety Act   prohibits anybody from operating any motorboat, sailboat, personal watercraft, drinking water skis, sailboard or similar device while intoxicated, which for boating is a blood alcohol content of. 08.

Authorities observe a “zero tolerance” policy as it pertains to boating under the influence : if an operator is found to be intoxicated, he or she will be cited. In accordance to a Georgia DNR official, if an operator involved in an incident passes sobriety tests, the law prohibits him or her through being  charged with BUI.

Olivia Ali is  a digital producer with the USA Today Network. She can become reached at [email protected] com or on Twitter @OliviaNAli.  

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