Divers halted a search for a missing 13-year-old boy after a deadly boating accident that happened on Lake Lanier late Monday night.
Authorities say at about 10:30 p.m., a center-console fishing boat which was traveling at a high rate of speed slammed into a pontoon boat carrying 13 people. The fishing boat was being driven by 44-year-old Paul J. Bennett, who was arrested early Tuesday morning at Forsyth County marina. Bennett faces charges of boating under the influence, and authorities say more charges may be forthcoming. A woman who was onboard the boat with Bennett at the time of the accident has not been arrested.
The 13-year-old boy went missing following the impact, and his 9-year-old brother was also killed in the accident.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials say dive teams from several jurisdictions searched for the teen in a 100-square-yard section of the lake between Buford Dam and Lake Lanier Islands, where the accident took place. Search crews used a side-scan sonar-- a device used to find and identify objects underwater-- from the DNR. Divers had to cease their search around 6 p.m., but DNR officials said they will continue to check the water for any sign of the boy after that time.
"Our dive team generally will come out until all search options have been exhausted or until a recovery is made. So if we're unsuccessful this afternoon, we'll be back out here tomorrow morning and the day after," said Rfc. Mitchell Crump of the DNR.
A temporary headquarters for the dive teams has been set up at the Shoal Creek boat ramp, located off Shadburn Ferry Road in Buford. Dive teams from the GSP and Forsyth County are on standby to be used if needed.
Officials said they are experiencing difficulty with low visibility, underwater trees, depths of more than 100 feet and not knowing the exact location of the crash.
"It's a very, very dangerous, hazardous lake to dive in. If they go down and they, themselves, become entangled, then that creates a whole new emergency, so they have to exercise a great deal of caution when they're diving in Lake Lanier," said Crump.
An uncle of the boy was on the scene as crews continued their search. The man is a law enforcement officer, according to Crump.
"He's obviously distraught. This is quite obviously a close-knit family. Members of his department are here in a support role as well," said Crump.
Divers will return at 7 a.m. on Wednesday. Several DNR officials remained on the scene late Tuesday.
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