Lake Martin boating incident leaves 1 dead, 4 hurt

posted on:
August 12, 2008

author:
Tom Ensey

One Prattville man is dead, a woman is in critical condition and a Montgomery man has been charged with homicide by vessel and boating under the influence after a horrific boating accident on Lake Martin.

Patrick Cumbie, 22, is in the Elmore County Jail under $15,000 bond for the death of Donny Tatum, a 62-year-old Prattville man, according to the Alabama Marine Police. Tatum’s sister-in-law, Sue Tatum, is in critical condition after suffering life-threatening injuries, said Whit Moncrief, who is a Prattville resident and a friend of the victims.

Three other people suffered injuries and were taken to hospitals in Tallassee and Montgomery, said Marine Police Sgt. Gary Buchanan, who worked the crash. He did not believe their injuries were life-threatening.

Buchanan said there were people in the water around the stern of a pontoon boat when Cumbie ran over some of them and crashed his runabout into the right rear of the pontoon boat. There were “about 11 people” on the boat or in the water when the accident happened at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, he added.

Buchanan said he thought all the people on the pontoon boat were from Prattville, but it was hard to determine in the chaotic scene that followed the accident.

“In a boating accident you have the added dangers and complications presented by the lake itself,” he said in a news release issued after the accident. “You can’t just drive an ambulance out onto the water to get to the injured.”

Buchanan said Cumbie was arrested and charged with boating under the influence, which was increased to homicide by vessel when the victim died.

Buchanan said the accident took place in the Little Kowaliga Creek section of Lake Martin near Real Island Marina.

“They were in open water as far as I know,” said Buchanan, who arrived after the collision and began rescue operations. “They were not at a dock.”

Officers from the Eclectic Police Department, deputies from the Elmore County Sheriff’s Department and members of the Kowaliga Volunteer Fire Department responded to assist. He said neither boat sank and both were driven back to the dock at Sinclair’s, a popular restaurant on the Elmore County side of Lake Martin near Alabama 63.

Buchanan said a couple of helicopters and multiple ambulances rushed to the scene to evacuate the injured.

“Everything involved with the accident is still under investigation,” Buchanan said.

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