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Deal signs boating safety law

POSTED: April 23, 2013 11:16 a.m.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday he hopes Lake Lanier will be safer this summer after he signed into law new boating safety regulations at the Holiday Marina.

Two accidents that killed three children on the lake last summer promoted Deal to make boating safety a priority this year. The bill creates the "Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law," and the "Kile Glover Boat Education Law." It takes effect May 15.

The parents of the three children who died in lake accidents last summer attended the ceremony, surrounded by family and friends.

The new laws lower the legal limit of blood alcohol to .08 percent for someone operating a water vessel — the same standard for operating a car — and imposes escalated penalties for repeat offenders similar to driving under the influence laws. There are also new boater education requirements, stricter life jacket rules, and the bill clarifies the ages, types of boats and watercraft that teenagers and children under 12 years old may operate. The education requirement doesn’t kick until in 2014.

"I sign this bill for all the Kiles, all the Jakes and all the Griffins of our state," Deal said. "We’re taking a big step toward avoiding tragedies and we’re making certain that Georgia’s waterways are a place where people can come, have a great time with their families and have great memories to share in the future."

Members of the Prince family and friends were wearing green in memory of Jake, 9, and Griffin, 13. Jake bought his mom, Tara, a green android necklace on a family vacation a couple of weeks before he and his brother Griffin, 13, died in an accident on Lake Lanier.

"He gave me the necklace and it’s a gaudy little beachy souvenir and he said ‘This is for you to wear to church Mommy," Tara Prince said with a laugh. "He always thought it was funny that I had an Android (phone) instead of an Apple phone."

The Buford boys were killed after a center console fishing boat rammed into the pontoon boat their family and three other families were riding on last June. The fishing boat operator faces several charges, including homicide by vessel and boating under the influence.

Sgt. Mike Burgamy, with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, was part of the search for the Prince brothers last year. He said he thinks the new boating the under the influence law will deter people from drinking excessively at the lake.

"It’s easier for prosecution on us and it gives us a little more bite to the law," he said.

Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said there will be an increased presence from the sheriff’s office this summer over last summer. Deputies, school resource officers and other police personnel will use the county’s boat and personal watercraft for patrol, as well as team up with DNR officers, he said. The department will also host boater safety classes.

"Hopefully with the education and enforcement components together, it will make everything safer on Lake Lanier," Couch said.

Tameka Raymond, the mother of 11-year-old Kile, said she has created a foundation dedicated to her son that focuses on the arts. He painted, acted and created digital images, she said.

Kile wasn’t the first to lose his life on Lake Lanier, but Raymond said she hopes he is the last.

The two mothers hugged during the signing ceremony.

"I told her she gave me strength," Raymond said. "To see her be strong enough to be here, it inspired me a lot."

Glover, stepson of entertainer Usher, and son of Ryan Glover, an executive for Bounce TV, died last July after the tube he was riding on was run over by a personal watercraft. Jeffrey Simon Hubbard of Atlanta has pleaded not guilty to charges including homicide by vessel.

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, authored and carried the bill in the Senate, where it got unanimous approval. He said he watched some children playing during the signing ceremony and listened to a baby crying during it.

"That crystallizes what we should be doing in the legislature and in the leadership and in our society; protecting the most vulnerable, the (most defenseless) members of our society — children," he said.

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