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Trained dogs aid search for missing teen on Lanier

Commissioners to send letter to legislators about boating laws

POSTED: June 27, 2012 12:00 a.m.

The search for 13-year-old Griffin Prince, missing since a June 19 boating accident on Lake Lanier, focused Tuesday on areas where search dogs picked up scents.

Search dogs are specially trained animals that use scent to help authorities find missing bodies.

“We’ve still got the FBI dive team on hand, and our divers,” said Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, Hall County Sheriff’s Office public information officer.

The FBI divers, based in Quantico, Va., joined the search Monday.

The search dogs have enabled the dive teams to narrow the search area, he said.

Wilbanks said the search area is within the initial area of the accident near Buford Dam, but “more centrally located within that grid.”

He described the area of Tuesday’s search as over the channel of Shoal Creek, about 300 yards from creek’s mouth where it runs into the main body of water.

“We haven’t moved at all,” Wilbanks said, explaining that searchers continue combing the same general area they have been since the accident between a 21- to 22-foot center console fishing boat and a 17-person pontoon boat with 13 aboard that also killed Griffin’s 9-year-old brother Jake.

“Unfortunately, we’re still operating as we have been since the accident,” Wilbanks said.

Paul J. Bennett, 44, of Cumming was charged in the accident with boating under the influence.

The tragedy continues to draw discussion in the community about safety on the lake.

At Tuesday’s work session for the Hall County Board of Commissioners, Hall resident Doug Aiken asked for commissioners to enact laws with stricter penalties for those who boat under the influence on Lanier.

After county attorney Bill Blalock pointed out that laws on the lake can only be established by the Georgia General Assembly, the commissioners agreed to send a letter to legislators asking for tighter rules on Lanier.

Commissioners did not discuss proposed rule changes in detail.

Commissioner Craig Lutz also asked for information about how emergency workers respond to accidents on the water and whether there is room for better partnerships between other agencies that patrol the lake.

Times staff writer Aaron Hale contributed to this report.


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