Trial resumes for man accused of killing brothers on lake



HALL COUNTY, Ga. - Channel 2's Tom Regan is back in Hall County Court, where jurors heard from a fisherman who arrived first on the scene of a deadly boating collision that took the lives of two brothers last summer.

Prosecutors allege Paul Bennett was driving his boat drunk and fled the scene of the wreck in June 2012. He is on trial for numerous charges including homicide by vessel, boating under the influence and failure to render aid.

Brothers Jake Prince, 9, and his brother, Griffin, 13, died in the accident.

Witnesses told jurors of his desperate effort to revive one of the children.

Wednesday afternoon, the jury heard testimony from Phil Johnson. He was fishing in the area the night of the crash and was the first to arrive on scene.

He grimly described how he tried to revive Jake, who was thrown off the pontoon boat when it was hit.

“In making the assessment, it was just that the injuries that had been sustained were beyond what I was capable of helping. And that at point CPR was not going to be beneficial,” Johnson said.

Jake’s brother, Griffin, disappeared beneath the surface and was found by divers nine days later.

The boys’ mother testified Tuesday about what happened.  

Tara Prince said her family and another family were out for an evening of recreation on the lake when she suddenly heard the impact of collision.

"It was an enormously loud, crashing sound, being stopped dead in the water. I saw stuff flying over my head, and landing in the water behind us," Tara Prince said.

The mother said her oldest son scrambled to find Jake.

"I heard my son, Ryan, in the water. He said Jake's been hurt. I could see him trying to hold him up. I was trying to revive Jake with chest compression. His face started swelling and I knew there wasn't anything that I could do for him," Prince said.

Tara Prince and others began a desperate search for 13-year-old Griffin Prince, who vanished beneath the surface. Prince said she screamed to the defendant's boat for help.

"I was yelling back and asking, ‘There are children in the water. Please come and help me look, bring light, please come look for the children,'" Tara Prince said.

The mother testified Bennett did not come to help. She said she could hear his voice and the voice of a female companion.

A girl from the other family on board the boat also testified to the jury about what happened when she was thrown from the boat. The judge withheld her identity.

In opening statements, defense attorney Barry Zimmerman told the jury that he will present testimony to show Bennett did seek help following the crash and that there was reasonable doubt that he was intoxicated beyond the legal limit. The attorney claimed what happened was a terrible accident, but not a crime. The prosecution said they will present testimony from a park ranger who interviewed Bennett following the crash.

Regan said Wednesday he’s expected to soon hear from a law enforcement officer who gave a drunken driving test to the defendant and what were the results.

Watch Channel 2 Action News starting at 4 for more testimony on this developing story.

Channel 2 Action News

Delivered To Your Inbox