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5 dead after 2 motorboats collide in river near Savannah; 1 arrested

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Two motorboats collided on a southeastern Georgia river on Saturday, killing five people, authorities said.

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The two vessels were carrying nine passengers when they collided on the Wilmington River near Savannah, the Savannah Morning News reported.

Update 1:45 p.m. EDT May 29: Three victims that were missing after a boat crash on the Wilmington River were recovered, bringing the death toll to five, WSAV-TV reported. Authorities also said one person was arrested in connection with the collision of the two boats Saturday morning.

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Mark Christopher Stegall, 45, of Savannah, was arrested for boating under the influence, the Savannah Morning News reported.

Four of the five boaters killed were members of the same Savannah family, the newspaper reported:

  • Christopher David Leffler, 51, of Savannah
  • Lori Lynn Leffler, 50, of Savannah
  • Zachary James Leffler, 23, of Alpharetta, Georgia
  • Nathan Leffler, 17, of Savannah
  • Robert Steven Cauncey, 37, of Savannah

The Leffler family’s boat was carrying six passengers and the other had three on board, the Morning News reported.

All three missing victims were located by game wardens at approximately 9 a.m. EDT on Sunday in 14-foot deep water and near each other, WTOC-TV reported. The bodies were recovered by Chatham County Marine Patrol divers.

Update 2:06 p.m. EDT May 28: Two people were killed and three others remain missing, police said.

One other passenger suffered major injuries and was transported to an area hospital via a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, the Savannah Morning News reported. The other three boat passengers suffered minor injuries, according to the newspaper.

The identities of the people involved in the crash have not been released.

Original report: Emergency crews responded at about 10:30 a.m. EDT on a stretch of the river near Oatland Island, according to the newspaper.

According to Chatham Emergency Services, one boat was carrying six passengers and the other had three on board.

The Chatham County Police Department closed boat traffic between the Thunderbolt Boat Ramp and Richardson Creek, according to WTOC-TV.

Fire and marine patrol personnel, including the U.S. Coast Guard, were at the scene, WSAV-TV reported.

A spokesperson with Chatham Emergency Services did not respond to questions about possible fatalities, citing HIPAA privacy laws, according to the Morning News.

No additional details were available.