Boating incident victim still in ‘critical’ condition

posted on:
August 12, 2008

author:
Marty Roney

WETUMPKA — A Prattville woman continued to fight for her life Monday, following a fatal weekend boating accident on Lake Martin, and more criminal charges may be filed in the case.

Sue Tatum was listed in “critical” condition Monday evening at Baptist Medical Center South, said Melody Ragland, marketing coordinator for Baptist Health.

Her injuries are life-threatening, District Attorney Randall Houston said.

Her brother-in-law, Donny Tatum, 62, also of Prattville, was killed in the accident that occurred near Reel Island Marina about 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

The accident is the first fatality recorded on Lake Martin this year, said Lt. Erica Shipman of the Marine Police. There have been six accidents resulting in seven injuries on the lake this year, compared to 13 accidents last year — none of them involved a fatality.

On nearby Lake Jordan, there has been one accident reported this year, which resulted in no fatalities or injuries. Last year on Jordan there were four accidents with no injuries or fatalities, she added.

Authorities said the last fatality on either of the lakes occurred July 1, 2006, on Lake Jordan. Michael Haslam, 41, was killed when a boat driven by John Faulk, 27, struck another boat.

Faulk was charged with homicide by vessel. A jury convicted him of the charge, and on March 31, he was sentenced to three years in prison, courthouse records state.

The District 3 office of the Alabama Marine Police serves Lakes Martin and Jordan. The district covers a large chunk of central and eastern Alabama. In 2007 there were two fatalities reported in the district — one on Lake Eufaula and one at a private pond, Shipman said.

In Saturday’s fatal accident, a large group of Prattville residents were on the pontoon boat that was struck by a boat driven by Patrick Cumbie, 22, of Montgomery. Cumbie is charged with homicide by vessel and one count of boating under the influence, Houston said. He is out of the Elmore County Jail after posting a bond of $15,000, the prosecutor said.

Homicide by vessel is a felony.

Cumbie could not be reached for comment Monday night. Court records do not show if he has an attorney. A phone call placed Monday afternoon to an address similar to the one listed on the arrest report wasn’t returned.

Cumbie wasn’t hurt in the accident, Houston said.

Three other people were hurt in the accident, but their injuries aren’t considered to be major, Houston said. Assault charges could be filed against Cumbie for the injuries.

“The investigation into the accident is still going on,” Houston said. “Of course, the most serious charge is the homicide by vessel. We will likely present any evidence dealing with the assault charges to the grand jury.”

Marine Police arrived to investigate after the pontoon boat had moved to Sinclair’s restaurant, where rescue crews could get to the injured, Sgt. Gary Buchanan said.

“A rescue effort in a boat accident is complicated because you are on the water,” he said. “You just can’t tell the ambulances to go to this address. You have to get the injured out of the water and get them to a place where they can get help.”

Other boats offered to give aid, he said. Two helicopters were dispatched, along with “several” ambulances, Buchanan said.

“We have an air ambulance service in Wetumpka and one in Opelika that serve the lake,” he said. “There are several places where a helicopter can land near the lake. The helicopters were called because they could get to the scene faster, and they could get the injured to the hospital in Montgomery faster.”

News of the accident was the topic of discussion throughout Prattville on Monday.

The Tatums are a well-known family in town. Sue Tatum is the mother of Kyle Tatum, a standout football player at Prattville High School and the University of Alabama, who now is an offensive line coach at Prattville. Donny Tatum is Kyle’s uncle, and was active in the football program’s booster efforts.

“You just wonder how something like this could happen,” said Emily Barnett, who said she went to Prattville High with Kyle Tatum. “Kyle’s mom used to work up at the office at the high school. She’s a sweet lady. These people just wanted to spend some time on the lake and tragedy hits.”

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