Jake (left) and Griffin Prince
BUFORD — After nine days of non-stop searching, the body of 13-year-old Griffin Prince has been found.
Divers pulled the Buford teenager’s body up from among the underwater forests of Lake Lanier at about 6 p.m. Wednesday, ascending from 113 feet down to bring another piece of closure to his family. The Prince family now has the remains of two sons, both killed on June 18 when an allegedly intoxicated boater slammed into their pontoon.
“All of our prayers have been answered,” the family said through a statement posted on Facebook. “Yes, they did find our dear Griffin.”
Long days of searching were unsuccessful until Wednesday, when sonar equipment implemented by FBI teams picked up the body and members of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office dive team retrieved it.
“We were totally committed to doing whatever we could,” Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic said Wednesday during a press conference at Lanier’s banks.
VIDEO: Griffin Prince press briefing
Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic speaks to the Daily Post following the announcement that 13-year-old Griffin Prince's body was recovered from Lake Lanier.
Griffin Prince and 9-year-old brother Jake were killed that night when authorities believe Paul Bennett drunkenly drove his fishing boat — one he purchased from the Prince family’s “Grass Shack” boat shop — into the pontoon driven by their father. Bennett fled the scene.
Jake was wearing a life jacket and was located shortly thereafter. The search for his brother was complicated by deep waters and an inability to pinpoint an exact accident scene. Griffin Prince was not wearing a life jacket.
A turning point came overnight Tuesday and on Wednesday, when cadaver dogs keyed in twice on a single location. Wreckage was recovered during the day Wednesday and subsequent findings by FBI sonar boats led divers to the body, located in one of the deepest parts of Lake Lanier and in the general area of the believed crash scene.
“This has been one of the most supported and coordinated efforts that I’ve seen in my 30 years in this type of work,” Cronic said.
Col. Eddie Henderson, whose Department of Natural Resources crews were also crucial in the search, echoed the sentiment.
“Probably out of all the incidents I’ve been involved with over the years, this has been the best collaborative effort,” he said. “All of our individual employees from every association, from every agency that’s been here went above and overboard with their commitment to get closure for this family.”
The Prince family requested privacy Wednesday, but thanked 13 organizations involved in the search — including volunteers and restaurants who brought food to the search site — via Facebook.
“The last couple of hours have been a mixture of emotions: relief, gratitude, sadness, joy,” the statement said. “Thank you all for your prayers, service, time and resources. We can never thank you enough.”
Griffin’s body has been taken to the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy, Cronic said.
With one aspect of closure achieved, the family will have to wait a little longer for more. Bennett, 44, of Cumming, was arrested and charged last week with boating under the influence. More serious charges — like some form of vehicular homicide — are expected to come but may not be filed for weeks.
Henderson said Wednesday that DNR’s critical incident reconstruction team will be recreating the accident before filing a report with the prosecutor.
“We’re looking at several weeks out before we get to that point,” Henderson said.
FAMILY STATEMENT ON FACEBOOK
All of our prayers have been answered. Yes, they did find our dear Griffin.
We would like to thank all the wonderful men and women who worked non-stop to find him. We know you were all as emotionally invested in the recovery effort as we have been. When we met with you this morning at the lake, we had a peaceful, good feeling that today would be the day.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Hall County Sheriff's Department Dive Team
Cobb County Police Dive Team
Forsyth County Fire Department Geological Information Services
Georgia State Patrol
Army Corps of Engineers
Hall County Fire Department Marine Units
FBI Dive Team
Hall County Sheriff's Department Support Staff
Suwanee City Police Department
FEMA Dogs & their Handlers
Unaffiliated Volunteers who offered their services
All the people and restaurants who brought food to the site to support and feed the staff
The last couple of hours have been a mixture of emotions: relief, gratitude, sadness, joy. Thank you all for your prayers, service, time and resources. We can never thank you enough.
Michael, Tara and Ryan