GAINESVILLE - The President of the Lake Lanier Rowing Club said he has feared for years that one of the club's shells might be hit by another vessel, and Sunday morning those fears came true.
John Ferris said Monday he was not an eyewitness to the crash, but he got a call Sunday morning from some of the club rowers that a four-man shell had been struck by a fishing boat that was participating in a fishing tournament on Lake Lanier.
"We've had close calls where someone in a motorboat or in a rowing shell got too close...but never a collision in the past," said Ferriss.
Ferriss said those on board the shell told him they were rowing south toward the boathouse at the Olympic Rowing Venue when they heard an approaching fishing boat.
Ferriss said when the boat didn't slow down, the four rowers began to shout.
"Then the driver of the boat did slow down, but he couldn't slow down enough to avoid colliding with the shell," he said.
Ferriss said all four of the rowers were veterans and each had at least eight years of experience as rowers. Plus, he said they were wearing bright clothes.
While all four of the rowers were ejected into the lake, the fisherman did stop and help them get out of the water, according to Ferriss and the ranger with the Department of Natural Resources who took the report.
Ranger Kevin Goss said none of the rowers was hurt, but he said they were "pretty cold."
"[They had] minor hypothermia," said Goss.
The fisherman, whose name was not released, was cited for failure to follow the rules of the road and not yielding to a non-motorized vessel.
Typically, boating accidents happen on Lake Lanier in the busier summer months, and rarely does one happen with a rowing vessel.
"This is the first one I've ever worked involving a rowing shell," said Goss. "So, yes, that was unique, but, you know, accidents happen year-round on this lake."
Ferriss said the accident is strong testimony to him that boating safety rules need to be tougher on Georgia lakes.
"You know, the boats are expensive, but nothing like human life," said Ferris. "The boat can be repaired, and we're just very thankful that the people in the boat were okay."