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Deal signs tougher boating provisions into law

Staff Photo: John Bohn Governor Nathan Deal signs a new law into the books to set the Boating Under the Influence blood alcohol level at .08, during a signing ceremony at Lake Lanier on Monday. Gov. Deal gives a ceremonial pen used in the signing to Ryan Prince, brother to Jake and Griffin Prince who lost their lives in a boating accident on Lake Lanier last year. Ryan's parents Tara Prince, is at left and his father Michael Prince is at center.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Governor Nathan Deal signs a new law into the books to set the Boating Under the Influence blood alcohol level at .08, during a signing ceremony at Lake Lanier on Monday. Gov. Deal gives a ceremonial pen used in the signing to Ryan Prince, brother to Jake and Griffin Prince who lost their lives in a boating accident on Lake Lanier last year. Ryan's parents Tara Prince, is at left and his father Michael Prince is at center.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Tameka Raymond, left, mother of Kile Glover and Tara Prince, right, mother of the late Jake and Griffin Prince, share a hug as Governor Nathan Deal signs new laws into the books to set the Boating Under the Influence blood alcohol level at .08, during a signing ceremony at Lake Lanier on Monday. Raymond and Glover lost their sons during two boating accidents on Lake Lanier last year.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Tara and Michael Prince, who lost their two sons Jake and Griffin in a boating accident last year by a drunken boater, attend a signing ceremony at Lake Lanier on Monday. Governor Nathan Deal signed a new law into the books to set the Boating Under the Influence blood alcohol level at .08. Seated with Michael is his niece Chandler Prince. Seated Tara is family friend Manning Berrett, who was on the Prince's boat at the time of the accident.

BUFORD -- Tameka Raymond and Tara Prince met for the first time Tuesday, two mothers grieving their boys but hugging in celebration, as a new bill was signed into law giving hope for other mothers.

"I'm very optimistic. I'm hopeful someone else will learn from this tragedy," Raymond said, after new boater education provisions were signed in her son's name, Kile Glover, who was killed last year while tubing on Lake Lanier.

Another portion of the law, which drops the legal boating under the influence level to 0.08 to match drunk driving statutes, was named for two of Tara Prince's sons, Jake and Griffin Prince, who were knocked into the water after a suspected drunk boater smashed into their boat. Last summer was marred by days of searching the lake for Griffin's body.

But as the sun shone off the water Tuesday, the two mothers found strength in each other, as Gov. Nathan Deal signed the legislation, giving away the pens to commemorate the occasion.

"The sad story about enjoyable things like Lake Lanier is that tragedies sometimes happen. But tragedies sometimes can be avoided," Deal said. "We hope this law will help us avoid future injuries and losses."

Speaking of requirements involving life jackets and boater education courses, as well as the lowering of the BUI limit, Deal said the law is a "big step to avoid tragedies."

"I believe it will save lives," he said, choking back tears. "I sign this bill for all the Kiles, all the Jakes and all the Griffins of our state."

As the weather warms this spring, Department of Natural Resources Sgt. Mike Burgamy said his department is preparing for a crowd at Lanier, which sees 8 million visitors each summer.

Like last year, Gwinnett police officers will help with the patrols.

But the new law, he said, adds teeth to stop those who are putting others in danger.

"We want folks to come to the lake to enjoy it; it's beautiful," he said. "But if they are going to drink, we want them to be responsible."

Burgamy said the BUI limit and life jacket requirement for those under 13 in a moving boat become law on May 15, while other education requirements will become law in 2014.

For the Princes, father Michael said they would likely not get out on the water this summer. It's still too hard.

They watched the news coverage, but they did not go to the Capitol to talk to legislators about the bill this winter.

"It was tough to even come today, but I'm glad we did," Michael Prince said.

Public statement from the Prince family

On Tuesday, the governor signed into law a bill lowering the BUI limit to 0.08, legislation named in honor of Jake and Griffin Prince, brothers slain in a boating accident last summer.

The Prince family issued the following statement about the occasion:

The loss we suffered on June 18, 2012, when we lost Jake and Griffin on Lake Lanier will have an impact on our personal lives for as long as we live. We miss our boys terribly, every day; and there are no words to express the pain we have suffered, and the emptiness we will yet have to suffer as we work our way forward in life, trying to be the best people we can be; trying to be good members of our community, and trying to find ways to reach out to help others who might also be suffering from challenges in their lives.

We have been blessed in so many ways by the love and compassion and contributions of others since the accident, and we continue to be amazed at the many good things others have done for us and that they still are doing to honor the lives of our sons. This legislation is another wonderful example of good people reaching out to us personally and it is a demonstration of how they are trying to make the world a safer and better place in which to live. It is a great honor to have Jake and Griffin’s names memorialized in this way, and it is a good start to helping prevent future tragedies. We hope, as time passes, the laws will be strengthened even more; that people will be better trained in piloting watercraft; that law enforcement on the water will be much improved and better funded; and that there will be a heightened awareness of the things that need to be considered as people enjoy the waterways with their fellow boaters.

We know we will see Jake and Griffin again one day, but until then it will certainly be pleasant to be reminded of how other people’s hearts were touched by them as we make note of a law on the books of the State of Georgia which bears their precious names. We thank all of those who have made this legislation possible.