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Lake Sinclair scene of afternoon tragedy

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A clear blue afternoon great for outdoor activity took a tragic turn on Oct. 27. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, George Ralph Harper, 80, of Eatonton died when his fishing boat, a 16-foot Lowe boat, was struck by another boat, an 18-foot Phoenix bass boat, on Lake Sinclair.

From a statement released by the DNR, it was approximately 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 that game wardens were notified of an incident on Lake Sinclair.

“Once on scene it was determined that the operator of a vessel exited a cove and began to speed up but was not yet going fast enough for the boat to plane, so the bow was still high enough to obscure the operator’s vision. As a result, the operator didn’t see a fishing boat idling in close proximity. Once the operator saw the second vessel, he attempted to steer away, but he struck the fishing boat, rendering a passenger in that boat unconscious and not breathing,” the DNR said.

“CPR was performed but the passenger succumbed to the injuries and was later pronounced dead. The DNR Law Enforcement Critical Incident Reconstruction Team (CIRT) will be investigating the incident.”

Sgt. Bubba Stanford of the DNR told The Eatonton Messenger on Oct. 28 that the accident occurred in the vicinity of Bass Boat House, which is between the Baldwin County Airport and the Oconee Sailing and Yacht Club. In the boat with Harper, according to Sgt. Stanford, was Sonny Poole of Eatonton. He said both sides have been very cooperative in this investigation, but right now is an extremely hard time for the Harper family.

Sgt. Harper said the best thing for people to do is keep the Harper family in their thoughts and prayers.

“We need to get the facts in place,” he said.

Another point Sgt. Stanford wants people to keep in mind is safety on the water. He said the DNR wants everyone to enjoy the state’s natural resources, and fishing is good in the fall. He said accidents usually occur the most during the spring and summer months when traffic is heavier, but they can happen at any time of year.