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Busy weekend for authorities closes quietly

POSTED: July 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Sara Guevara/The Times

Bob Merriman of Decatur throws his son Collier, 6, into the air Sunday at Clarks Bridge Park.

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The Merriman family searched for a fishing spot on their way home to Decatur from a relaxing holiday weekend in the Northeast Georgia mountains.

They ended up stopping at Hall County’s Clarks Bridge Park, where Bob Merriman and sons Campbell, 9, and Collier, 6, played in the water while Dana tended to the family dog, a Boston terrier named Buster.

"We’re putting a nice little end to our vacation weekend," Dana Merriman said.

Area authorities reported a fairly quiet Sunday, with people staying safe at home and on the roads.

Law enforcement and emergency officials otherwise stayed busy this holiday weekend, with authorities reporting that two teens had drowned in Lake Lanier in the first 48 hours of the holiday weekend.

Dago Bento Mejia of East Meadow, N.Y., drowned late Saturday afternoon near Bell’s Mill Bridge.

Ariel Cotuc Chaudjay, 17, of Duluth drowned Friday at a park in Forsyth County.

And Sunday morning, rescue workers in Forsyth County morning found the bodies of two men who had drowned when their pontoon boat wrecked the night before in Lake Lanier.

As of noon Sunday, the Georgia Department of Public Safety reported that authorities had worked 1,816 accidents with 615 injuries and 17 fatalities. No fatalities were reported in Northeast Georgia.

The Department of Natural Resources reported a total of five drownings, 28 BUI arrests and 19 boating incidents for the Friday-Sunday holiday period.

Four of the drownings, seven of the BUI arrests and three of the boating incidents occurred on Lake Lanier.

Area parks were sparsely attended Sunday, as families and others spent the last of a three-day weekend enjoying a picnic, walking with a dog or just sitting close to the shoreline under a beach umbrella and gazing at Lake Lanier.

Ken and Lucinda Sanders and their children, 15-year-old Nathaniel, 8-year-old Kenny and 3-year-old Rebekah, spent part of the day relaxing at Laurel Park in North Hall.

They were capping off a busy weekend of working around the house and shopping.

Ken Sanders said the family had considered taking a picnic lunch at Anna Ruby Falls near Helen, "but we decided to stay local."

The family hails from Murrayville.

Stephanie Coe of Gainesville said she "had nothing planned (Sunday), so I thought I’d go for a walk."

The Gainesville State College student did just that, with her 7-year-old beagle, Pepper, strolling through Laurel Park.

The Merrimans spent the weekend at a cabin in Cleveland. They enjoyed the holiday without watching TV or paying attention to the news and said they were saddened to hear about the drownings.

They said they take precautions when swimming in beach water.

Mainly, "we just try to keep a close eye on (their sons)," Bob Merriman said.



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