Boat Explodes Injuring One Man During Busy Weekend on Lake Hartwell

It’s been one of the busiest Memorial Day holidays ever on Lake Hartwell, and DNR law enforcement is investigating two accidents that ocurred over the weekend.

The first put a man in the Augusta Burn Center after the boat he was operating exploded.

Officials say the boater was coming back from the fuel dock when the boat exploded.

“On Saturday, we had a boat fire. There was an explosion that occurred at Harbor Light Marina,” said DNR Law Enforcement Officer Craig Fulghum. “Around 3p is when the initial 911 calls came in. It happened in and around the boat ramp near the restaurant at Harbor Light Marina. He (the boater) was coming around from the fuel dock and was trying to put his boat up (when the explosion happened). The boater suffered third-degree burns and was air lifted via helicopter to August Burn Center.”

The name of the boater has not been released, but Fulghum did say he was a white male.  He said the boat the man was driving was a 20-foot pleasure boat and investigators do not believe anyone else was onboard at the time of the explosion.

DNR is still investigating the cause of the explosion. The second accident happened Sunday.

“We had a hit and run Sunday around Poplar Springs,” he said. “A family on a pontoon was hit in the front by a pleasure boat, and they (pleasure boat) continued on their course without stopping.”

The driver of the pleasure boat has not yet been found.

According to Fulghum, the hot weather and high water levels combined to make for a very busy and crowded lake.

“There were a lot folks on the lake this weekend, more so than we’ve seen in past years,” Fulghum said.  “Every year it seems like it tops what happened the year before.  A lot of things have to be in place for it to be that busy; the weather has to cooperate, with it being hot like it is, and the lake is at full pool. Plus, Memorial Day is our busiest time of year just because everybody is anxious to get on the water.”

But even though Lake Hartwell was crowded with more boaters than ever year, Fulghum said most who had alcohol on board were boating responsibly.

“I think a lot of that has to do with people being more aware of the dangers of boating under the influence,” Fulghum said. “We’ve seen a lot of designated drivers. If you’re going to be out there drinking alcohol, have somebody that does not drink the entire time do the driving, and we’re seeing a lot of people doing that. And that’s what we want to see out there.”

Boating Under the Influence in Georgia carries the same penalties as Driving Under the Influence and is an automatic trip to jail.