DNR makes arrest in connection to fatal boating accident Wilmington River

By Sarah WinkelmannMariah Congedo and Brian Bailey

Published: May. 28, 2022 at 11:29 AM EDT

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - UPDATE: An arrest has been made in connection to the fatal boating accident in the Wilmington River that left five people dead Saturday morning.

DNR tells WTOC that 45-year-old Mark Christopher Stegall, of Savannah, was arrested and charged for Boating Under the Influence.

Three bodies have been recovered from the Wilmington River bringing the total after a fatal boat collision Saturday morning.

WTOC spoke with Sgt. Cindy Miller of the Georgia DNR and she tells us that they recovered three bodies out of the water Sunday morning. They have been out since daybreak Sunday morning searching for the remaining missing people involved in Saturday’s collision.

The game wardens, along with the Chatham County Marine Patrol, Savannah Fire, Chatham Emergency Services, and the U.S. Coast Guard, immediately began the search for the missing utilizing sector scan sonar and divers. All three missing victims were located by game wardens at approximately 9:00 a.m. Sunday in 14-foot deep water and in close proximity to each other. The bodies were recovered by Chatham County Marine Patrol divers.

Five people have died from the boat collision that happened around 10:30 Saturday morning.

A Coast Guard Air Station Savannah aircrew hoisted and transferred one of the nine people from the Wilmington River Saturday to Memorial Health University Medical Center.

A letter went out Saturday to Calvary Baptist families, as some of the victims were identified as Calvary Baptist faculty member and family. The letter reads in part:

“We are saddened to report the death of our faculty member, Mr. Chris Leffler, and his wife, Lori, who passed away from injuries sustained in a boating accident today. They are survived by their daughter, Katie.

At this time, Chris’ son and rising senior, Nate, is missing along with his brother, Zach. We ask that you keep the Leffler family in your prayers.”

WTOC will keep you updated as we get more information on this developing story.


Two people are dead and three others are missing after a boating accident in the Wilmington River Saturday morning.

Chatham Emergency Services says the call came in around 10:30 Saturday morning to respond to a crash between two boats, who were traveling in opposite directions when they collided.

According to Chatham Emergency Services Chief Operations Officer Phil Koster, one boat had six people on board. Four were taken to the hospital. Two later died from their injures at the hospital. There are two other people still missing.

The other boat had three adult males on board. Two were taken to the hospital and one is still missing.

Divers are actively searching the water in the area of Wilmington River between Thunderbolt and the drawbridge is still closed.

It will be closed until further notice.

One boat has sunk and other is still on scene.

Koster urges people to be safe in boats and in cars this weekend specifically and take all safety precautions.

DNR and Chatham County Marine Patrol are leading the investigation.

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