ATLANTA — The state Senate unanimously passed new boating legislation Friday that is intended to make Lake Lanier and other waterways in Georgia safer.
The Kile Glover Boat Education Law and Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law were drafted in response to two tragic boating accidents on Lake Lanier last summer that killed three children. The laws make up one bill that includes several regulations, such as lowering the legal blood alcohol level of boat and personal watercraft operators to the same limit for driving a car, requiring boater education, raising the age of children required to wear life jackets and clarifying age limits for operating certain vessels.
Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, sponsored the bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal said is a priority of his. Miller has been talking with the Glover and Prince families about the proposed laws and spoke to the Senate chamber on behalf of the legislation. He said this was the first time he had ever asked the Senate for a unanimous vote.
“This bill is an opportunity for the Glover and the Prince families to have their children remembered,” Miller said. “All children deserve to be remembered; to grow up and graduate from high school. We deserve to share in their successes and console them in their defeats.”
Ryan Glover and his wife, Marsha, were at the Capitol Friday for the vote. Calling his son “a light” he said the bill was important to help other families not have to go through the same things.
“There’s nothing that we can do that will bring our son back to us physically,” Glover said. “We believe in God’s word and his will and understand and believe he is resting in eternity.”
Kile Glover, stepson of entertainer Usher, was at Lake Lanier with his father in July, while his mother, Tameka Raymond, was out of town. The 11-year-old and a teenage girl, Jordan Shepp, were in a raft being pulled by a pontoon boat while a family friend on a Jet Ski, Jeffrey Hubbard, was trying to splash them, said Raymond’s attorney Ashley Bell, a former Hall County commissioner. Hubbard is reported to have run over the raft, leaving Glover brain dead and Shepp seriously injured.
Hubbard was indicted Thursday in Hall County Superior Court by a grand jury and charged with homicide by vessel in the first degree and serious injury by vessel. He was arrested by officers from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Friday morning.
Ryan Glover declined to comment on the indictment.
Hubbard was also charged with reckless operation of a vessel, unlawful operation of a personal watercraft and boat traffic violation.
The bill requires that anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1998, complete a boater education program and people who rent or lease a personal watercraft must have a safety briefing. The safety course would be available online for free on the DNR website.
An earlier collision, in June, killed Jake Prince, 9, and Griffin Prince, 13, from Buford. They died after a 21- to 22-foot center console fishing boat rammed into the 17-passenger pontoon boat their family and three other families were riding on.
Paul J. Bennett, 44, has been charged with homicide by vessel, boating under the influence, failing to render aid and reckless operation of a vessel.
The new boating under the influence law would lower the legal blood alcohol limit for adults operating boats and personal watercraft, such as Jet Skis, from 0.10 to 0.08, and penalties would mirror Driving Under the Influence laws. The state would also start requiring children 13 and younger, instead of just 10 and younger, to wear a personal flotation device or life jacket.
Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who formed the Lake Lanier Legislative Caucus last year with other lawmakers to address safety and other lake concerns, said more legislation is on the way that will also focus on safety. The theme of safety education was constant throughout the caucus’ meetings and public hearings. The laws would apply across the state, but are particularly needed at Lake Lanier, Unterman said.
“Because of the urbanization of (the) area and encroachment in direct relationship to Atlanta, we have an overpopulation, especially on holidays, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and unfortunately have had several incidents of boating accidents and boating drownings,” Unterman said Friday.
The bill moves next to the House for consideration.