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Boater charged in April 21 collision on Lake Lanier
Felony counts carry maximum sentence of 20 years in prison
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A Cumming man faces charges, including homicide by vessel and boating under the influence, in an April 21 boating collision on Lake Lanier that killed one person and seriously injured another.

Rangers in the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division, working with the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office, also have charged Steven Brent Parker, 32, with serious injury by vessel and reckless operation of a vessel.

Homicide by vessel and serious injury by vessel are felony counts that carry a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

According to the DNR, Parker was operating a ski boat that collided with a pontoon boat before midnight April 21 at Lower Overlook Park near Buford Dam on the Gwinnett side of Lanier.

Stephen Blake Jones, 59, of Duluth, was operating the pontoon boat. Sharon Ezell of Milledgeville was also on it.

Parker and his passenger, Ashley LeBlanc, of Cumming, swam from their damaged boat to shore and flagged down a motorist.

Rescuers found Jones’ body in the water. The pontoon boat with Ezell still aboard was found about five hours after the incident was reported.

Ezell was taken in serious condition to an area hospital. Parker and LeBlanc were treated at an area hospital and released.

The DNR’s Critical Incident Reconstruction Team is continuing to investigate.

Col. Eddie Henderson, head of the agency’s Law Enforcement Section, said the incident is “another reminder that although boating is a safe and enjoyable activity, it can turn tragic in a split-second if boating safety laws are not followed.

“We strongly encourage all boaters to designate a sober operator if alcohol will be consumed on the boat.”

The initial response to the incident also involved Gwinnett County fire and police departments, the Forsyth County Fire Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The DNR is continuing to investigate a June 18 boating crash that resulted in the deaths of two brothers, Jake Prince, 9, and Griffin Prince, 13. Griffin’s body was found on June 27, after a search that involved dive teams, search dogs and sophisticated FBI sonar equipment.

Authorities have charged Paul J. Bennett, 44, of Cumming, with boating under the influence.

Henderson has said the investigation could take several weeks to complete. Once finished, the report, along with DNR recommendations regarding any possible other charges, will be given to the Hall District Attorney’s Office for review.

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