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Man charged in April boating wreck that killed Duluth resident

GAINESVILLE — A man from Cumming has been charged with homicide by vessel and boating under the influence following a collision on Lake Lanier in April that killed a man from Duluth, officials said.

A spokesman with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said Steven Brent Parker, 32, of Cumming could face up to 20 years in prison after a ski boat he was operating near Lower Overlook Park collided with a pontoon boat operated by Stephen Blake Jones, 59, of Duluth. Sharon Ezell of Milledgeville was aboard Jones’ vessel, but survived the crash.

According to DNR, rescuers found Jones’ body in the water hours after the April 21 collision.

Parker and passenger Ashley LeBlanc of Cumming swam from the damaged 21-foot ski boat to shore and flagged down a motorist. They were treated at a local hospital and released.

Rick Lavender, a spokesman with DNR, said the agency’s critical incident reconstruction team is still investigating the incident.

Col. Eddie Henderson, the law enforcement section’s agency head, said it was “another reminder that although boating is a safe, enjoyable activity, it can turn tragic in a split-second if boating safety laws are not followed.”

Added Henderson: “We strongly encourage all boaters to designate a sober operator if alcohol will be consumed on the boat.”

The initial response to the incident involved Gwinnett County Fire, Gwinnett County Police, Forsyth County Fire and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In addition to Parker’s charges of boating under the influence and homicide by vessel, he is charged with reckless operation of a vessel.

The April 21 wreck was the second of two fatal incidents on Lake Lanier in early spring. A week earlier, a 14-year-old boy and his 40-year-old stepfather drowned while both were swimming at Mountain View Park.

More recently, two brothers were killed in a June 18 boating incident on Lake Lanier when a vessel they were aboard was struck by a man who authorities said was under the influence and fled the scene. A visitation will be held Monday, with a funeral scheduled for Tuesday, for Griffin, 13, and Jake Prince, 19.

The boat driver, Paul Bennett of Cumming, was charged in the incident.