Girlfriend of boater charged in deadly collision testifies

by: Tom Regan Updated:

The girlfriend of a Forsyth County man on trial for a boat collision that killed two young brothers in June 2012 told a jury that he attempted to help following the crash and did not run and hide.
FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. —

The girlfriend of a Forsyth County man on trial for a boat collision that killed two young brothers in June 2012 told a jury that he attempted to help following the crash and did not run and hide.

"I remember a lot of chaos, and I remember a lot of screaming," said Amy Harris.

Harris testified Monday in the trial of Paul Bennett, a hair salon owner accused of driving drunk when his fishing boat struck a pontoon, resulting in the deaths of 9-year-old Jake Prince and his 13-year-old brother, Griffin Prince.

The collision happened around 10:30 the night of June 18, 2012, as the couple returned from a trip to a lakeside bar.

She said both of them had consumed one alcoholic drink each at the bar and did not see the other boat before the collision.

She testified Bennett turned the wheel over to her and jumped into the lake moments after the crash.

"He was trying to go help. He was in there about 10 to 15 minutes. He couldn't get over, and I didn't want the boat to go too close to the scene," Harris said.

Harris said they circled the dark crash site several times and then went to the shoreline, seeking help from two officers in a lakeside park.

They asked the officers to board Bennett's boat. Harris said the officers declined because they were in uniform, which included a heavy weapons belt and body armor.

Harris said when they returned to site, everyone was gone. She said she then began experiencing diabetic shock, including trembling, and needed something to boost her blood sugar, so they decided to go back to Bennett's houseboat.

"We didn't have any alternative, so Paul and I headed back to the houseboat so I could correct my blood sugar. I had a liter of Coke," said Harris.

Later, a Department of Natural Resources ranger spotted Bennett's boat and, following a field sobriety and breath test, arrested him on suspicion of boating under the influence.

In cross-examining Harris, Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh suggested Bennett turned off the GPS on his boat and flipped the light off in his houseboat to avoid law enforcement from finding out their involvement in the collision.

Harris denied the allegations.

"How could you hide something like that? That's not true," Harris said.

Bennett is charged with homicide by vessel, boating under the influence and failure to render aid.