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Family of 10 saved from boat wreck

June 25, 2020 - 06:00
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  • Family of 10 saved from boat wreck
    The wrecked boat is seen only partially submerged as it is being towed by Sea Tow after the boat driver ran over a tree stump in the lake, which tore the lower unit from the boat. CONTRIBUTED/PCSO Lt. Harry Luke

A family of 10, including small children, were all saved by authorities after the family’s boat crashed and began to rapidly sink.

Putnam County Sheriff Office’s Lt. Harry Luke said the family was from Newark, New Jersey, visiting for a family reunion on Lake Oconee Saturday, June 20. There were five adults and five children ages 3-11 in the boat, which went over a tree stump in the lake around Sugar Creek.

“It used to be standing timber there, but now it’s under water; and if you don’t know which side of the buoys to go on, you hit the stumps,” Luke explained.

The stump pulled the lower unit from the hull of the boat, Luke said, which left a 12- to 14-inch hole in the back of the boat and caused it to fill with water. The family called 911, and Luke and Deputy Alex Rickey were patrolling the lake that day and were very nearby. Luke said the five children were all wearing life jackets and floating in the water, and the deputies pulled the boat up beside them and reached down and pulled each child into the patrol boat.

The law enforcement officers took the children and put them safely on the bank at Sugar Creek, then went and rescued the five adults, who had put on life jackets when the accident occurred. Deputy Rickey then took them all to Oconee Wild Watersports, where the family had rented the boat.

Sea Tow was called in to pull the fully submerged boat out of the lake. Luke noted everything in the boat, including drink cans, snacks, toys, were floating everywhere, “and it was a mess to clean up; but we’re glad we could save their lives and help them,” he added.