Divers with Cobb County Police Department search for the body of a 13-year-old at Shoal Creek on Lake Lanier Thursday afternoon in Buford near the site where the fatal boat accident occurred late Monday night.
The search for 13-year-old Griffin Prince — missing since last Monday night after the pontoon boat driven by his father was hit by a speeding fishing boat — has met with another obstacle: Time.
"With each passing day, the search only grows more difficult," Forsyth County Fire Department Capt. Jason Shivers said.
But reinforcements, including cadaver dogs and divers from the FBI, joined the recovery effort on Monday, which might allow for an extension of the week-long search. The FBI dive team brought more sophisticated sonar and scuba equipment that allows them to remain submerged longer, said Hall County Sheriff's Office spokesman Stephen Wilbanks, adding that "no end date" has been set.
The search has been concentrated in Shoal Creek near Buford Dam in the southern end of the man-made lake. Here, the lake is at its deepest, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. At full pool its depths can reach 160 feet.
Divers are literally working blind, Shivers said.
"Most divers close their eyes instead of trying to navigate through all the silt," he said. Underwater cameras reveal a soupy, sun-starved bottom and trees, up to 60-feet tall, swathed in vegetation.
This search differs from most as its part of a potential homicide investigation. Paul J. Bennett, of Cumming, has been charged with boating under the influence and could face more serious charges once the Georgia Department of Natural Resources concludes its report into the crash, which crushed much of the front side of the 28-foot pontoon boat that carried nine children and four adults. Griffin's 9-year-old brother Jake sustained massive injuries and died on the scene.
Family members have made intermittent appearances at the base camp on Lake Lanier, thanking divers searching for the second of Mike and Tara Prince's three sons.
"I feel certain we'll be back out here [Tuesday]," Department of Natural Resources Sgt. Lee Brown told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as day seven of the recovery effort drew to a close.
Shivers said divers never want to give up and, typically, most recovery efforts are successful.
"It's more common to find a body than not," he said. But there are exceptions.
In May 2010, after nearly two weeks underwater, Forysth County Fire Chief Danny Bowman reluctantly called off the search for Rohan Mathew, a 27-year-old Lawrenceville man who drowned near Six Mile Creek. Mathew's body was never recovered.
"You can only do it so long," Shivers said. "It's exhausting and quite dangerous. Any diver will tell you Lake Lanier is a challenge to dive in."