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Boats collide on Georgia river leaving 5 dead, officials say

At least four other passengers suffered minor injuries and one other person was reported airlifted by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The bodies of three missing boaters were recovered Sunday morning, bringing the death toll to five people after two motorboats collided Saturday on a river in coastal Georgia at the start of the long holiday weekend.

At least four other passengers suffered minor injuries and one other person was reportedly airlifted by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter for medical attention. The condition of that person wasn't immediately disclosed.

According to NBC affiliate WSAV, Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions confirmed Chris Leffler, his wife Lori and their sons Nate and Zach died from their injuries. The couple's daughter and her friend survived. 

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources identified the fifth victim as 37-year-old Robert Steven Chauncey, 37, of Savannah.

Family and Friends of Calvary Day School, We are saddened to report the death of our faculty member, Mr. Chris Leffler,...

Posted by Calvary Day School on Monday, May 30, 2022

Authorities said one of the boats was carrying six people and the other had three aboard when they collided around 10:30 a.m. on the Wilmington River.

WSAV also reported that a 45-year-old Savannah man was arrested and faces a boating under the influence charge.

A Chatham Emergency Services spokesperson who released details of the collision said a search was underway Saturday afternoon for the missing. Chatham County Police Department officials closed a stretch of the river to investigate and search.

The incident is the second involving a boat and serious injuries on the Wilmington River this month. A local businessman was killed May 5 when a boat he was aboard struck an unlit channel marker near the Savannah Yacht Club and he was struck on the head by an unknown object, authorities said.

Saturday was the start of the three-day Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest of the year for recreational boaters.

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