The full investigation will likely take weeks, but preliminary findings suggest speed was a factor in the boating crash that claimed the lives of four people on Lake Lanier, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
“Speed was a major factor in the incident, but we don’t know that it was the initial cause of the accident,” DNR Maj. Stephen Adams said Tuesday. “Whether a mechanical issue or something else caused the chain of events to start, we don’t know.”
The accident happened Friday near Cocktail Cove and Lake Lanier Islands Resort in Hall County as the water was filling up for the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run charity event. The victims were in town from Kentucky. Authorities identified them as Melissa Renee McHahan, 45, Arthur Gene McMahan Jr., 46, Tammy Reece, 44, and Anthony Reece Jr., 44.
There were a number of witnesses when the 38-foot boat crashed, though exactly how the crash unfolded was unclear Tuesday. When authorities arrived Friday, the boat was partially submerged and “numerous” other boats were in the area trying to help.
“It was a very violent crash,” Adams said.
The victims wouldn’t be found until later, the women on Friday night, the men early Sunday.
The poker run went on.
Organizers posted a message of condolence to Facebook on Friday.
“The Lanier Partners would like to send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of those involved in an accident on Lake Lanier today,” the post said. “The accident involved part of our poker run family and we are with heavy hearts tonight.”