Fatal Boat Collision Claims Two Lives On Lake Sinclair

After expansive 10-day search, body recovered near the scene of the wreck.

GON Staff | June 21, 2007

The body of a 25-year-old man killed in a boat wreck on Lake Sinclair was found at about 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, June 19 near the scene of the June 9 collision.

After 10 days in the water and about 2,000 man hours dedicated to the search by DNR personnel, the body was spotted floating in the water by a woman on the bank. A boat driven by the man’s parents was the first one on the scene.

“This is exactly what I wanted to avoid,” said Capt. Barry Fincher, Region 4 Supervisor with DNR Law Enforcement. “This has been one of the most expansive search-and-rescue operations in my experience, and exactly what happened was what I was trying to circumvent.”

Fincher pulled the DNR boats off the water Tuesday evening because of thunderstorms, he said. When the body floated to the surface and was spotted, there were no DNR boats nearby.

Over the 10-day period, 31 divers and more than 20 boats from at least 13 different law-enforcement and rescue organizations were involved in the search. They were looking for Chris Thompson of Statesboro, who was fishing with his father-in-law Steven Lewis, 50, of Adrian, in a 17-foot Bass Tracker near the mouth of Island Creek on Sinclair. Neither man was wearing a lifejacket.

Lewis was believed to have been killed on impact when a 21-foot Stratos bass boat, travelling about 50 mph, T-boned the smaller boat, said Fincher. Lewis was found that night floating near the scene of the accident with a broken neck.

The collision happened between 10:45 and 11 p.m.

Larry Jones, 33, of Eatonton, was driving the Stratos. He and William Jones, 50, of Milledgeville, were ejected from the boat when it went over the top of the Bass Tracker and capsized. Both were wearing life jackets and were treated for minor injuries.

Jones and Jones were fishing a Baldwin Backlashers Bass Club tournament that took off from Little River Park that evening. Larry Jones had just steered the Stratos out of Rocky Creek and was headed north toward Little River for the weigh in, said Fincher.

“He told me he had a good bag of fish and was headed to one last spot before the weigh in,” Fincher said. “He said he didn’t see anything.”

Although Jones told officers that he did not see the Bass Tracker, Fincher said it has not yet been determined whether or not the boat had its running lights on. Whether or not the Bass Tracker was running has not been determined either.

The first person to the scene was another angler, who was facing away from the accident but heard a sound like a bass boat slapping a wave before the engine went silent, Fincher said. The angler heard someone calling for help and went to the scene to pull the two survivors out of the lake.

When law enforcement arrived at the scene, the Stratos had been turned upright and pulled to the bank. Initially law enforcement thought it was a hit-and-run because they could not find a second boat. The Bass Tracker was found the next day wedged under a dock about 1,000 yards away on the other side of the lake.

A DNR Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) is currently conducting an investigation of the incident. No charges had been filed as of presstime.

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