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911 caller recounts frantic moments after boat capsizes

3 men dead, 1 hurt after boat flips in Brunswick River

Kurt Bowman stopped to help the survivor of a capsized boat and called 911.
Kurt Bowman stopped to help the survivor of a capsized boat and called 911.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Days after three men died and a fourth was injured after their boat capsized on the Brunswick River, 911 calls released reveal the frantic moments as the survivor tried to help his friends.

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, Georgia Department of National Resources Capt. Bob Lynn said.

One of the men, Marcus Collins, managed to put on a life jacket and swim to shore to get help, Lynn said.

That help came from Kurt Bowman, who said he stopped when he saw Collins screaming on the road near his home.

LISTEN: 911 caller reports capsized boat

“I pulled up to him -- of course, I was very cautious -- and rolled the window down just a little bit, and that's when I looked at him and saw that he was soaking wet, and he had a life vest and said, 'My boat turned over, and all my friends are gone,'” Bowman said. “He swam to shore, then he had to walk through an oyster bed. His feet and legs were cut up.”

Bowman said he almost didn't stop, but he's glad he did.

“He looked absolutely wiped out of his brains, and I said, 'No, this is legit,'” Bowman said.

The good Samaritan called 911 and, while talking to the operator, drove Collins (pictured below) to the place where the boat had turned over. Bowman said Collins was too frantic to talk on the phone. 

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“I just picked up a guy who says his boat just sank and three people drowned,” Bowman told the operator.

Bowman said he tried to help Collins find his friends.

“Just past that is where the boat capsized, and Marcus and I were standing just there to the right, looking out, and we were trying to look for his buddies,” Bowman said. “Marcus kept saying that a boat came by, and it threw a wake, and it put water in the boat and then one of the guys stood up, and water came in the boat and then all of them jumped out of the boat at the same time.”

Collins told Bowman none of the fishermen knew how to swim, and he was the only one wearing a life vest.

Collins was taken to Southeast Georgia Health System, where he was treated and released. Search crews later recovered the bodies of James Fuller, Rico Scott and Michael Troup.

Bowman said he plans to stay in touch with Collins and help him through his grief any way he can.

“I asked him how he was doing, and he said, 'I'm very sad, and I'm very lonely, and I miss my friends,'” Bowman said.

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

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.

Lynn said it may be several weeks before its investigation will be completed. DNR 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.

Friends of the victims have planned a vigil for next 6 p.m. May 5 near the site of the search. They said they'll be releasing balloons and remembering the three men who died.


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