The boater charged in the alleged hit-and-run that killed a 9-year-old boy on Lake Lanier, Paul J. Bennett (pictured), posted bond and was released from jail Tuesday afternoon.
FLOWERY BRANCH — The boater charged in the alleged hit-and-run that killed a 9-year-old boy on Lake Lanier posted bond and was released from jail Tuesday afternoon, as authorities continued to scour the waters for the deceased boy’s missing 13-year-old brother.
Paul Bennett, 44, of Cumming, was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with boating under the influence in Hall County. He was released on bond later in the afternoon, Hall County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks confirmed.
Bennett is likely to face more charges after the fishing boat he was driving collided with a pontoon boat, killing a 9-year-old and injuring three others.
The search for the boy’s 13-year-old brother continued into Tuesday evening but was suspended at about 7 p.m. Crews will resume their search this morning.
There were 13 people from Gwinnett County aboard the boat when it was struck at about 10:30 p.m. Monday, authorities said. As of Tuesday evening, the names of the deceased and missing boy had not yet been released.
Emergency crews on Tuesday were using boats with sonar devices to search for the teen and planned to send divers into the water if the sonar detected something. Deep water and timber at the bottom of the lake posed challenges for searchers.
“We’ve got folks out using a side scan, and the dive team is looking,” said Maj. Stephen Adams of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “We’re continuing to process the crime scene, looking at the two boats and interviewing witnesses.”
The wreck was described by police as a hit and run, and authorities spent much of the night searching for the fishing boat. Two other people were aboard the center-console fishing boat when Bennett was arrested early Tuesday morning.
Bennett left the scene, according to investigators. A DNR ranger responding to the incident saw the boat Bennett was operating as it entered Bald Ridge Marina in Forsyth County. He was arrested about 1:30 a.m. A woman riding in the boat with Bennett was not arrested.
A nearby “good Samaritan” came to the aid of those involved in the crash, Adams said. “It was a physician who was on a boat and bass fishing,” Adams said. “He came and rendered aid and assisted.”
The fishing boat struck the pontoon “basically head-on,” said Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell.
The 9-year-old’s mother and two other children were also injured. Their injuries were not considered life-threatening, Kimbrell said.
The boats collided in the Shoal Creek area on southern Lake Lanier, leaving as many as five people in the water.
Adams said divers continue to search, but “it’s almost zero visibility.” The depth of the water, he added, is more than 100 feet.
Adams said that rescue officials “have combed the shoreline, and we remain optimistic that we will find the juvenile, but we are also doing a search operation with the divers.”
Authorities have not yet determined the speed at which the boats were traveling.
The DNR’s critical incident reconstruction team is investigating the collision to determine whether the boats had the proper lights and whether they were in use. Other agencies assisting at the scene include Hall, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties and the Hall County District Attorney’s office.
An announcement identifying the victims could come Wednesday morning.
An announcement identifying the victims could come either later Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.
Return to www.gwinnettdailypost.com for updates.
Staff writer Tyler Estep and the Associated Press contributed to this report.