Many people are curious about the boating accident at Clarks Hill Lake last weekend. A young man who called 911 and rescued a woman from drowning was arrested with two other boaters for drinking while navigating.
Boy, there sure is more to this story.
There's little doubt James Thrash Jr. of Appling broke the law. His dad admits his son had "a couple of beers." Even though Junior barely registered on an alcohol test, he was charged with BUI because he's under 21.
But if anyone has ever had a better case for leniency in court, I haven't heard it yet.
Here's what happened.
Two men were zooming around on the lake around midnight April 8 when one of their boats crashed into the other, throwing a passenger, 22-year Beatrice James, into the water, a Department of Natural Resources spokesman said.
Thrash, who works at a nearby marina, heard the crash and piloted a boat to the scene. He found Ms. James floating in the water, face down.
With no help from the other two men, Junior dove in and pulled James to shore. He called 911 from his cell phone, and then guided a helicopter ambulance into the remote area.
James was taken to the Medical College of Georgia Hospital. She'll be OK.
Back at the accident scene, however, Junior was swept up in the general confusion. As Columbia County deputies and the DNR investigated the crash, 23-year-old Justin Wagnon of Augusta and 29-year-old Alan Perlitz were charged with BUI.
Junior had been in the right place at the right time to save Beatrice James. But he was at precisely the wrong place and the wrong time for the law. He soon was sitting in a cell at the Columbia County Detention Center until his father, who ironically was on a cruise ship at the time, could bail him out.
"If he had not gotten involved, that girl would not be alive today," Jim Thrash says of his son. "He was a hero. He's the one who coordinated the rescue -- there's no way he could have done that if he was impaired."
Impairment isn't the issue. There is zero tolerance for underage drinking and driving, and it's the same for drinking and boating. Any-one under 21 who registers any alcohol in their system gets busted, period.
And Junior is 20.
The law doesn't allow one person to step in and take responsibility for someone else's criminal charge, either. If it did, jails would be full of parents taking the rap on behalf of their children.
However, it certainly would be fitting if James, once recovered, made a plea for leniency in Junior's case. Wagnon and Perlitz, too, should beg for Junior to get a break; if not for his rescue of James, the men could be facing a charge of vehicular homicide.
In the end it will be up to a judge whether to go easy on Junior for breaking the law; if ever there were a case deserving the mercy of the court, this one is it.
James Thrash Jr. won't win any praise for drinking before the law allows. It's a dumb thing to do. But he surely has earned a pat on the back for heroism.
Richmond County's Democrats are still steamed that District Attorney Danny Craig switched to the Republican Party before qualifying for re-election.
Lost in all their whining -- and in the Republicans' gloating -- is not so much the significance of the party switch, but of the fact that Craig again is running for re-election without opposition.
Usually, a party-switcher will do so just after being elected -- as Don Cheeks did two years ago -- or wait until the last minute of qualifying to freeze out opponents from their soon-to-be former party.
Craig boldly switched at the beginning of the week, virtually daring someone to run against him. No one did.
That took guts, something a prosecutor needs. It's good to know we'll have him around a while longer.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columba County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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