buoys

New ‘no wake’ buoys have been installed near Lake Martin’s Bridge to Nowhere after a man was killed three weeks ago in a double boating accident nearby. The buoys will affect marine traffic around the congested Chimney Rock area during the Memorial Day weekend.

New “no wake” buoys at Lake Martin’s Bridge to Nowhere will demand vigilance from boat operators in the high-traffic area north of Chimney Rock this holiday weekend.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency this week authorized the Lake Martin Resource Association to place the four buoys north and south of the Bridge to Nowhere after an Auburn man was killed May 3 in a double accident in the vicinity.

LMRA president John Thompson said marine police contacted the organization about placing the buoys in the accident area on May 21 and the buoys were installed the next day.

“Our buoy team put out two buoys on each side of the bridge,” Thompson said. “They are 35 to 40 yards from the bridge to the north and to the south, far enough away that boaters should be able to see them and slow down their approach.”

The buoys were placed well away from the shoreline and are not lighted. Thompson said lighted buoys for the area would cost the organization nearly $2,000.

Especially at night, the new buoys could present a hazard to boaters who are unaware of their presence, as from the southern approach the buoys would be positioned between the boat and the bridge pilings.

The bridge is a short distance from the popular and congested Chimney Rock area of the lake and Thompson said he expects the buoys will have a significant effect on the traffic flow there.

“There are only two ways to go through that area to get from the Kowaliga side of the lake to the Wind Creek side,” he said. “One of them is to go through the Chimney Rock area, which is very congested, especially on weekends. The other way is to go through that narrower pass and under the bridge. It’s shorter to go through by the bridge and people go faster there. But they are going to have to slow down.

“It definitely changes the dynamics of the area. The message is pretty clear: Slow down and be aware of other boats around you. Boaters are going to have to take things a little slower.”

Three weeks ago David George Goodling, 56, was killed when the Chris Craft he was driving was struck twice about an hour apart near the bridge south of The Ridge Marina, according to ALEA Central District Marine Patrol commander Capt. Gary Buchanan. At approximately 8:30 p.m. May 3, Goodling’s boat collided almost head-on with a Sea Ray vessel operated by Norman Ray Harris. About an hour after the first collision, another boat struck Goodling’s vessel in the same area of the lake.

“We believe the fatality occurred at the first collision,” Buchanan said in a previous email to The Outlook.

After the initial collision, Harris contacted a friend and was transported to a hospital.

Apparently left to drift, Goodling’s damaged boat received a glancing blow from a second vessel about an hour later. The operator of that boat turned around, located Goodling’s vessel and towed it to The Ridge Marina. He called 911 and reported the Chris Craft had significant damage from a previous crash reported a body in the boat, Buchanan said.

No charges will be filed until the case is presented to the grand jury and Buchanan said while ALEA’s investigation is complete, a report from the state forensics department could take six months to finish.