Ga. deputy arrested after Mother’s Day boat crash kills passenger, leaves him in ICU, officials say

JASPER COUNTY, Ga. — A Georgia deputy has been arrested after deputies said he crashed a boat while under the influence, killing his passenger.

Authorities responded to reports of an empty boat going in circles in Jackson Lake on Sunday night.

Deputies said the boat’s driver, 38-year-old Brandon McGaha, and his passenger, 56-year-old Joseph Upchurch, were both thrown from the boat after McGaha crashed around 10 p.m.

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McGaha was able to swim to shore, where he was taken to the hospital with critical injuries and is in the intensive care unit.

Upchurch, who was not wearing a life jacket, drowned. His body was recovered from 50 feet of water around 2 p.m. Monday.

The Butts County Sheriff’s Office said the single-boat accident happened on the Jasper County side of the lake.


McGaha has since been charged with operating a vessel under the influence. It’s unclear if he will face any other charges.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division, Critical Incident Reconstruction Team is leading the investigation into the incident and a completed report is expected in 8-10 weeks.

“I would ask for continued prayers for the families of both involved and pray God will bring them peace and comfort during this most difficult time,” the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook. “I would ask that you keep the deputies and firefighters currently working to recover the body of this beloved person in our community.”

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