Agents with the Department of Natural Resources and local law enforcement officers, as well as emergency management officials, are searching for a missing man who was lost after the boat he was in capsized on the Satilla River near the Georgia Highway 158 bridge Sunday, said Ware County EMA director Jonathan Daniell.
Allen Thomas Graham, 51, of the 1400 block of East Baker Highway, Millwood (just inside Coffee County), was reported missing after the boat capsized, said Sheriff Randy Royal.
Leonard Turner III, 57, of the 3600 block of Augusta Springs Drive, was rescued after he was able to grasp a tree limb and hold on until help arrived, Royal said.
Turner was able to call some of his friends to come to the river and several brought four-wheelers to help search for Graham, thinking that he made it to the bank of the river in a wooded area, but nobody could find any sign of him, Royal said.
The GSP helicopter arrived about 10 p.m. and used a flare to light the area but nothing was found, Royal said.
“For safety reasons, the search was suspended around midnight and started back right at daybreak this morning,” Royal said. “Both men were in the boat and had put in between the 158 bridge and Jamestown Landing. The river crested at midnight at 16.5 feet, which is half a foot above flood stage.”
Leonard told lawmen that he was in the front of the boat when the boat shifted abruptly and began to take on water. He said Graham was sitting in the back of the boat and was wearing a yellow and black life jacket the last time he caught sight of him. Leonard told the officers he was able to swim to the north side of the river and thought Graham could make it out but the two got separated in the fast moving waters.
After Leonard reached shore, some time later, Royal said, he called Graham’s wife, who in turn called 911, about three hours after the boat capsized.
Cpl. Jason Shipes, with the DNR, is the responding ranger leading the search. The sheriff said Ware County deputies Sgt. Michael Merritt, Cpl. Bill Thomas, Sgt. Robert Weiss and Clay Carter are all on the scene helping with the search. The DNR has one boat in the water and the sheriff’s department has deployed two boats.
“Two men were in a boat that capsized about 3:30 or 4 o’clock Sunday afternoon. One man was rescued, he was not injured, he was able to hang onto some trees, but the other fellow has not been seen or heard from,” said Daniell. “The other gentleman, we are searching for him now. The DNR is in the lead and are starting river searches. We got crews coming in from Coffee and Jeff Davis counties.”
Daniell said rescue personnel found the boat the men were in.