Family grieving loss of boys in Lake Lanier boat crash

Jake (left) and Griffin Prince

Jake (left) and Griffin Prince


The Prince family (Facebook photo)


The Prince brothers, including Ryan, 15, left, Jake, 9, and Griffin, 13. (Facebook photo)

BUFORD — A wreath adorned with yellow daisies and white roses hung on a fence outside the Grass Shack on Wednesday, a reminder of 9-year-old Jake Prince’s death and the ongoing search for his older brother.

Jake and 13-year-old Griffin Prince were believed killed late Monday night when the pontoon boat piloted by their father was struck head-on by another vessel while on Lake Lanier. The search for Griffin continued Wednesday, but representatives from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources called it a “recovery effort.”

The driver of the fishing boat that smashed the Prince’s pontoon, 44-year-old Cumming resident Paul J. Bennett, was charged with boating under the influence and released from Hall County jail Tuesday afternoon, but is likely to face homicide charges in the future.

Mike Prince Sr., the boys' grandfather, said Bennett stopped and watched for about 10 minutes after hitting the pontoon boat.

"The only reason he didn't get Griffin was because he wasn't wearing a life jacket," Mike Prince said.

Deniece Prince, the boys' grandmother, said the family is trying to remain positive.

"This is not just a single event that has altered our lives. Everyone involved from the beginning of the tragedy and how it's altered everyone's lives, not just ours," Deniece Prince said.

The wreath hung Wednesday outside the Grass Shack boat shop owned and operated by the Prince family since 1991. The business off Holiday Road in Buford was open but quiet.

An employee there declined further comment but said the Prince family was “together and grieving.”

Reports surfaced Wednesday that Mike Prince Sr., actually sold Bennett the boat he was using during Monday’s crash.

As of early Wednesday evening, continued search efforts for Griffin — using sonar devices with divers standing ready if anything was detected — proved unfruitful.

“I am sad to report that we have no new updates as of this afternoon,” DNR spokesman Melissa Cummings said.

Cummings said the search for Griffin's body will resume Thursday.

Jake was a rising fourth-grader at White Oak Elementary School in Sugar Hill, and Griffin would have been an eighth-grader at Lanier Middle in the fall, Gwinnett County Public Schools spokesman Jorge Quintana said.

Thirteen Gwinnett residents, including nine children, were on board the pontoon when Bennett reportedly struck it at about 10:30 p.m. Monday in the area between Lake Lanier Islands and the Buford Dam. Bennett left the scene and was arrested at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday at Bald Ridge Marina in Forsyth County.

Attempts to reach Bennett were unsuccessful.

The family has set up the Jake and Griffin Prince Memorial Fund. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo location.

The “Griffin and Jake Prince Memorial Page” has also been set up on Facebook. As of Wednesday night nearly 800 people “liked” it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


mustardandbiscuit 3 years, 1 month ago

What a terrible tragedy to happen to a little family. My prayers go out to the family and friends.


teelee 3 years, 1 month ago

What can you say? This is heartbreaking, prayers for the family and the victims.


Sandykin 3 years, 1 month ago

My heart sinks for this family. What an awful tragedy to lose two sons and at the hands of someone who made a truly stupid decision to drink and get behind the wheel of a boat.


Sign in to comment