LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- The father of two young boys killed in a boating accident on Lake Lanier choked with emotion as he described the crash and his failed attempts to revive his son.

It's a highly emotional case that brought about tougher boating laws in Georgia, including a lower tolerance for boating while drunk.

PHOTOS | Deadly Lake Lanier boat crash
RELATED | Victims' grandfather sold boat to suspect

It's also a trial the victims' family, especially their mother, had hoped to avoid, but the man charged with killing her two young sons refused to accept a plea bargain and wants his day in court.

"His face started swelling and I knew there wasn't anything I could do for him," Tara Prince told a Hall County jury Tuesday.

She fought back tears as she described cradling her 9-year-old son, Jake, in her arms as he lay dying the evening of June 18, 2012.

One of her other sons, 13-year-old Griffin, was missing in the murky waters of Lake Lanier, and his body wouldn't be found for nine more days.

What started out as a quiet family cruise on a pontoon boat that summer evening ended in unthinkable tragedy.

A high speed boat came out of nowhere, smashing into the Prince family's slowly moving pontoon boat, careening over the front and leaving death and debris in its wake.

The driver of the high speed boat, 45-year-old Paul Bennett, is on trial for homicide by vessel, boating under the influence and failure to render aid.

In her opening statements, prosecutor Amber Sowers told the jury evidence will show Bennett was drunk that night, stopped briefly after the crash, but then fled and was later arrested at Bald Ridge Marina after failing sobriety tests.

She claimed he left the scene out of fear.

"They heard a scream from the defendant's boat and he screams, 'what have I done?' The mother's response, Tara yells frantically, 'you have killed two of my kids'," prosecutor Sowers said.

In his opening statements, defense attorney Barry Zimmerman said while what happened was a tragedy, it was, "nothing more than an accident, but not a crime."

Zimmerman asked jurors to keep an open mind which he accused police and DNR rangers of not doing.

He claimed they convicted his client even before they'd found him.

Zimmerman also said evidence will show Bennett tried to get the attention of some police on shore nearby, but was ignored and that he went back to the marina to get help.

He pointed out that Bennett willingly submitted to sobriety tests when rangers found him back at the dock, some of which the attorney claimed his client passed.

"A man who's got something to hide doesn't cooperate," Zimmerman said.

Prosecutors had earlier offered Bennett a plea bargain of eight years in prison and 30 on probation, but his attorney turned it down.

Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Gosselin estimated the trial will take several days.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.11alive.com/1fK6Gq2