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3 dead, 1 hurt after boat capsizes in Brunswick River

Snapchat video captures final moments before crews called to search for men

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Three men died and a fourth was injured after a boat they were fishing on capsized Wednesday evening in the Brunswick River.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Georgia Department of National Resources recovered two of the men's bodies in a search of the river Thursday morning.

One friend of the boaters shared with News4Jax a Snapchat story that shows all four men in the boat fishing near the Sidney Lanier Bridge. In the video, which was believed to be taken about 6 p.m. Wednesday, none of the men were wearing life jackets, but the waters seem fairly calm. 

About an hour later, the Brunswick Police Department received a 911 call just after 7 p.m. Wednesday about a 14-foot boat with a 20-horsepower tiller motor on the back that capsized about 100 feet from shore near the Sidney Lanier Bridge due to weather conditions. The boat took on a lot of water, sank and flipped, throwing all four men aboard into the water, DNR Capt. Bob Lynn said.

"It appears to be rough sea conditions last night. The boat took on water, took on a lot of water. It just continued to take on water and began to sink. It capsized because of the amount of water it had been (taking on), causing all four people to go into the water," Lynn said. 

One of the men, Marcus Collins (pictured below), managed to put on a life jacket and swim to shore to get help, Lynn said. Collins was taken to Southeast Georgia Health System, where he was treated and released.

When crews arrived, they quickly found Michael Troup's body in the water.

The boat was found in about 10 feet of water with the bow sticking out and fishing poles and sandals still inside. 

Because of weather conditions, search efforts were suspended between midnight and daylight. The body of Rico Scott was recovered about 7:30 a.m. Thursday, according to the DNR.

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Lynn said the fourth boater, identified as James Fuller, was found on the bottom of the river around 11 a.m. by a DNR boat using side-scan sonar. A Camden County diver went down and recovered his body about 10 feet down, Lynn said.

"The lesson to take away from this is two-fold," Lynn said. "Look at the weather forecast and always wear your personal flotation device."

When Fuller's family was told his body had been recovered, there was loud screaming and wailing. Groups of people held hands and prayed together.

"We were fortunate enough to bring quick closure today for the family," Lynn said. 

Five DNR boats, two Coast Guard boats and a helicopter from Savannah joined Brunswick police and Glynn County Search and Rescue in efforts to recover the missing boaters.

DNR said the men's boat was not fit for water conditions Wednesday night, and while there were life jackets on the boat, the men who died were not wearing them when the boat capsized.

Scott's 19-year-old son spoke to News4Jax Thursday morning at the search site.

"My dad, he was good. He was a strong person. He treated my step-mama right. He bought my brothers and sisters stuff, and he always made sure what I want to do in life. I mean, when you're young, you don't really know what you want to do in life, but he always wanted me to find direction, to find something to do," said Jaquan Scott. "I want him to know how much I love him."

Lynn said it may be several weeks before its investigation will be completed. GNR said its investigating whether or not alcohol was a factor, but will have to wait on toxicology results before officially making that determination. 

Investigators also said the boat was moving at the time it started taking on water, but they are not sure how fast it was going. They said they're hoping that they will be able to get a lot of information from Collins. 

Snapchat video captures final moments

Family and friends are now clinging to the moment in the Snapchat video that shows the happy, smiling faces of the men.

"I feel bad for the family. I feel bad for the friends that people didn't get to say their last goodbyes or have last words with them," Kaley Rozier, a close friend of Scott.

Rozier said she found out about the search for him this morning. She said Scott was an avid fisher and leaves behind five children.

"I knew he was going fishing and just for it to happen the way it did, I mean, that's a lot of lives lost because they are young," Rozier said.

Rozier said the Snapchat video brings her a little peace because Scott was doing what he had a passion for, but it also raises questions about why he and others weren't wearing life vests.

"My daughter was like bragging on how she was swimming in the deep end. She's 9 years old. She would jump off the diving board at 10 feet and she would tell Rico, 'Yeah, I know how to swim. Nobody taught me how to swim.' And he's like, 'I don't know about you, but I think I am going to stay in the shallow end because I can't swim too well,'" Rozier said.

Crews said one of the men, Collins survived. He was able to find a life jacket and swim to shore when the boat capsized.

Dozens of people gather together near the Sidney Lanier Bridge to console each other and pray for three men lost in the tragedy.

James Howard, a friend of Fuller's family, who is in a gospel singing group with Fuller's father, said Fuller had young children and was passionate about fishing and loved to be on the water.

"This right here is going to tear the family. The community is devastated," Howard said. "Whatever comes out of this, I still trust God. I still believe in God. Last night as we were praying, we were telling God, 'We believe you, but help our unbelief, so our faith can be built up.'"

At this time, family and friends are in the process of setting up a memorial for the men. Rozier said Scott will be laid to rest on May 7.

Tragedy raises boating safety concerns

Officials now want to make sure this doesn't happen again. They want to urge all boaters to make sure their boats have the required safety equipment and know how to use it, no matter how experienced they may be or how long they plan to be out on the water.

News4Jax spoke with a marine captain who trains new boaters on how to stay safe on the water.

"You never know what is going to happen. You always want to be ready for everything -- expect the unexpected out here," said Capt. Frank Timmons Jr., the lead safety instructor for Freedom Boat Club.

Timmons said he saw things change quickly Wednesday afternoon on the water as the tides shifted and the waves got bigger.

"It was like 3-4-feet, very short, choppy, rough," Timmons said.

Timmons said smaller boats have a harder time in conditions like that, especially if they're weighed down. Investigators in Brunswick said the boat that capsized wasn't fit for the waves and the wind and that the vessel may have been overloaded.

"You've got to stay within that weight limit because the boat will change its attitude. The center of gravity changes. The boat is not built to handle an overweight situation.

Boats are supposed to have a sticker from the Coast Guard that lists the maximum capacity. Safety experts also said if a lot of people are going out on the water, bringing fishing gear and a cooler full of ice and drinks, that can also add to the weight on the boat.

Investigators in Brunswick said only one of the men had a life jacket on. He was the only survivor. Timmons said that even for people who are strong swimmers, currents can be overwhelming. He suggested people wear life jackets, or at least keep them close by.

"They have to be readily accessible on the boat. Readily accessible does not mean it's still in plastic, stuffed down in some storage bin somewhere on the boat. That's not readily accessible. You may not have much time. You've got to grab it."

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