5 Dead Following Devastating Georgia Boat Collision

Five people have tragically died after a boat collision in Georgia.

According to authorities, five people died and four more were injured when two boats struck each other head-on Saturday morning. Mark McKinnon, public affairs officer for the Georgia Department of Natural ResourcesLaw Enforcement Division, told People that Georgia game wardens responded to an incident near Oatland Island Wildlife Center docks where Richardson Creek and the Wilmington River meet in Chatham County.

Witnesses had seen two center console boats carrying nine people — six in one boat, three in the other — crash into each other while traveling in opposite directions. Two people were pronounced dead at the scene while three others were initially missing. Game wardens, Chatham County Marine Patrol, Savannah Fire, Chatham Emergency Services, and the United States Coast Guard began searching for the rest of the passengers using scan sonar and divers. Two helicopters were also deployed. After a search lasting until the next morning, the missing victims were found, McKinnon said in a statement on Sunday:

“The three missing victims were recovered this morning, bringing the number of deceased to five.”

He added:

“All three missing victims were located by game wardens at approximately 9:00 a.m. Sunday in 14-foot-deep water and in close proximity to each other.”

The deceased have been identified as Christopher David Leffler, 51, Lori Lynn Leffler, 50, Zachary James Leffler, 23, Nathan Leffler, 17, and Robert Steven Chauncey, 37. The other passengers, whose names have not been made public, were transported to a local hospital, Mark shared:

“The other four passengers suffered various injuries and were transported to Memorial Health Medical Center in Savannah.”

One other person “is in good condition” and was seemingly uninjured in the accident, according to a press release.

An investigation is ongoing by the Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Critical Incident Reconstruction Team. They anticipate that the investigation will take six to eight weeks. In the meantime, 45-year-old Mark Christopher Stegall (pictured above) has been taken into custody, People confirmed. He has been arrested for allegedly “boating under the influence in the incident.” At this time, it is unclear if he has been formally charged or if he has retained an attorney to speak on his behalf.

Sending love to all the victim’s families and loved ones in this devastating time. What a scary, unfortunate accident…

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