Angler Killed In Sinclair Boat Accident
Middle Georgia fisherman Tony King dies after being thrown from boat on windy, rough day on Lake Sinclair.
On Friday, March 11, members of the Macon Pro Casters bass-fishing club were on Lake Seminole for a weekend outing. Club President Tony King was across the state on Lake Sinclair, preparing for a tournament in the Bulldog Division of the Wal-Mart BFL. Nobody knew that the day would turn tragic for a seasoned boater and angler.
Tony, 46, of Macon, was killed when he was ejected from his Ranger 521 VX after hitting a large wave. According to WRD Ranger First Class Vernell Jackson, Tony’s face was bruised.
Tony’s lifevest was found inside the boat, and the kill switch on his motor wasn’t activated.
The boat was equipped with a Hotfoot throttle, which works similar to that in a car. When the operator presses down on the pedal, the boat speeds up, when the foot is off the pedal, it idles. The boat quickly slowed after Tony fell out.
Tony was practice fishing the day before the tournament. Winds gusting to more than 40 miles an hour had turned conditions on Georgia lakes hazardous.
Friends Tom Hamlin and Troy Pickett said club members were shocked to hear news of the accident. Tony was an experienced angler and had been operating a boat for years, according to Tom.
“Tony wasn’t the kind of guy to do anything reckless, and he has been in conditions a lot worse than that,” Tom said.
Troy agreed, saying, “He was a good boat driver. I have never known him to do anything reckless. ”
An accident report from the Georgia DNR shows that Tony was probably going less than 40 mph and his boat sustained little damage.
“It just sounded like a freak thing you probably couldn’t duplicate in a million years,” Tom said.
According to eyewitness Walter Rutledge, of Sparta, Tony’s boat was traveling west, coming from behind an island south of Sinclair Marina. When he went from calm water to rough water, a wave slammed into the Ranger, sending Tony overboard.
“I just happened to be looking at the boat when he came out of it,” Walter said.
After trying unsuccessfully to flag down another boat in the area, Walter put his own boat in the water and went to help. The pontoon boat had a cover on it and had not been started in quite a while, so it took Walter a few minutes to get to where he had seen Tony. Each time Walter stopped his pontoonboat to try to get to Tony, the wind and extemely strong current would push him farther away. By the time he located Tony, it was too late.
Another boater who went through the same area only minutes before Tony’s accident said the sun was blinding. Tom and Troy speculated that in fighting the sun’s glare, Tony put his head close to the console. When the wave hit, they believe Tony’s head was hit by the console or another part of the boat, knocking him unconscious before he fell into the water.
Both men said the practice of running close to the bank in rough water is something many Sinclair anglers do, and both have gone behind the same island where Tony’s accident occurred to get out of bad conditions.
“The water right there was 4 or 5 feet deep,” Tom said. “But he could have stood up.
“If he had been wearing a vest that would keep him upright or if someone had been with him, we would probably be kidding him about getting thrown out of the boat.”
Troy said Tony was a kind man, but full of vigor. “He would give you anything in the world if you needed it, but he was a scrapper,” Troy said. “He wasn’t the kind to give up.”
Tony and Troy fished together frequently. Troy, who joined the Pro Casters after moving from Florida, said the club is a great social-gathering place for bass fishermen.
He recalled a July weekend at Lake Russell when he and Tony found schooling bass under a bridge and had a ball catching them.
“We fished with Pop-Rs under a bridge until our arms fell off,” Troy laughed. “We were the only guys who weren’t burned to a crisp, and we had a bunch of fish.”
Troy and Tom said Tony’s accident should be a wake-up call, not just to tournament fishermen, but anglers everywhere. Both men agreed that the incident is a clear indicator of how fast things can go wrong on the water.
“We always preach safety first, safety first, safety first at our club events,” Tom said. “But sometimes we get lazy about putting on a lifevest when we’re running the big motor.”
Troy agreed, saying many fishermen take their vests off once they reach the first fishing hole and never put it back on. Under BFL rules, anglers must wear lifevests whenever the outboard motor is being used.
“During tournaments, you have to wear it when you’re running the combustion motor,” Troy said. “Sometimes when I practice, I’m bad about leaving it off. We all are.”
By Georgia law, a boat must have a lifevest on board for each passenger. Each boat must also carry a Coast Guard-approved, throwable floatation device. However, even though a vessel must have a lifevest for each person on board, passengers in a boat don’t have to wear one.
Troy suggested it might be time for a law change regarding boating safety in Georgia. “Maybe they need to make it mandatory, like wearing your seatbelt when you drive your car,” Troy said.
Tony is survived by his wife Deloris, and son Anthony. Other living relatives include Matt and Mary Maddox of Bonaire, Cathy and Lew Chastain of Bonaire, Mike and Michelle King of Macon, Andy and Sherry King of Warner Robins, and Terrell and Brenda King of Butler.
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