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Family friend: Surgeries, long recoveries ahead for boat explosion victims
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The Colemans are seen in this family photo. (Used with permission)

David Dirkse saw his friends and dock neighbors at Margaritaville roughly an hour before a boat explosion that sent several from the family to the hospital.

“We had seen them just before we left,” said Dirkse, of Buford. “We were getting ready to do Mother’s Day stuff at the house, and they were getting ready to go out on the boat.”

Taylor Coleman, 16, Gunner Coleman, 13, and their mother, Annie Coleman, 39, of Suwanee, were all taken to Grady Memorial Hospital after an explosion and fire Sunday, May 9, at the Port of Indecision at Margaritaville. The children were flown to the hospital, while the mother was taken by ambulance.

All three were “transported for burn injuries,” Hall County Fire Services Division Chief Zach Brackett said. “The degrees and severity, I think it varies on all three. This was a pretty significant incident.”

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An explosion on Lake Lanier May 9, 2021, burned a boat and injured several people, including two teenagers.

Dirkse’s family became friends with the Coleman family more than a year ago and even had plans for a vacation together.

After getting home on Mother’s Day, Dirkse got a call and picked up the father, Steve Coleman, and the youngest son, Ryder, to take them to Grady.

Dirkse said Steve Coleman suffered burns that weren’t taken care of right away because “he really wanted to take care of his family and be there.”

“They admitted him because his burns were getting worse and getting infected,” Dirkse said.

Annie and Gunner Coleman have had surgery, and Taylor Coleman has been on a ventilator.

Dirkse said Taylor and Gunner were sitting on a bench toward the back of the boat, and Annie Coleman was on the dock holding the back of the boat. 

Dirkse said there is “a long, tough, painful recovery” ahead for the family.

Dirkse described the family as down to Earth, nice and friendly and always willing to lend a hand.

“You couldn’t ask for more,” Dirkse said. “They’re just very humble, hardworking, salt-of-the-Earth people. You couldn’t ask for anybody better.”

The Lake Lanier community and its boaters, as well as some from around the country, have come to the Coleman family’s aid with meals and donations.

A Gofundme was organized by Dirkse that has raised more than $36,000 as of 4 p.m. Friday, May 14.

“It restores your hope in people, especially in this day and age,” Dirkse said.

The Hall County fire marshal’s office is investigating the case.

According to reports released Friday by Brackett, a personal watercraft and the gangway leading from the shore to fueling station were affected by the initial fire.

“No vehicle information was obtained by fire personnel due to the sinking of a majority of the personal watercraft as a result of the fire,” according to the report.

One firefighting crew used a Margaritaville boat while extinguishing the flames, according to the report.