According to the Department of Natural Resources, Prater was thrown or fell from a type of towable item pulled behind a rented vessel. Witnesses told rescue personnel that Prater was not wearing a life jacket. The incident happened in the area of the Old 41 Campground No. 3, Blockhouse Boat Ramp and the Navy Lake Site recreational facility. Water depths in the area range from 20 to 50 feet, with most areas searched in the 30- to 35-foot range.
Agencies involved, over the past three days, included Georgia DNR, DNR Aviation Unit, Bartow County Fire and Rescue, Gordon County Emergency Management Agency, Bartow County Sheriff's Office, Bartow County EMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Allatoona. Equipment included side scan sonar, a thermal imaging camera, an underwater camera, helicopter and more.
"A lot of the equipment that they have now is something that is designed to save and to locate someone before divers go down," Melissa Cummings, DNR public affairs coordinator, said. "Obviously, when the divers go down sometimes they're dealing with dangerous [or] deep water, so this is to save the efforts there and really use them when they find what they identify as a 'good target.' That sonar allows them to get picture images off the floor of the water body that they're at, and a lot of times they're really clear images of what they're seeing."
The Bartow County rescue team aided DNR with underwater cameras, which Cummings described as presenting an even clearer picture "to not tax the efforts of the divers and for safety." With the sonar, a computer screen is utilized on the boat while the sonar device is pulled behind the boat, transmitting images from sound waves back to the computer in real-time, allowing rescue personnel to grid off an area and search by the grid.
"It's sped up efforts and has made them safer for divers and made, in most cases, recovery efforts that much quicker," Cummings said. "I think the concern [that] this one took a couple of days [was] because the area was relatively large they were searching in because they weren't entirely sure where he went down at. There was some discrepancy from witnesses and the boat operator that had him going down in different places."
Georgia DNR encourages wearing a life jacket, as it is one of the most effective and simplest life-saving strategies for safe recreational boating.
For information on boating safety, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com/boating/safety.