Wednesday, February 21

Savannah school teacher, wife and 2 sons identified as victims in deadly boat crash


SAVANNAH, Ga. — As a community mourns the five victims killed in a boat crash, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources says its investigation will take weeks before it’s finished.

Officials recovered three more bodies Sunday morning after Saturday’s crash on the Wilmington River near Savannah.

ABC News spoke with two boaters who saw the boats moments before the crash. In all, nine people were on the two boats when they crashed. Five people died and four others were injured.

“They were coming around. One was was heading north and south on the intercoastal and they went around. It’s a very, very sharp corner,” Stepp Syndor said. “They were going so fast, so there’s no way that they could have, you know, corrected. And then when they hit, the damage was significant. Everybody flew out of the boat.”

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Chris Leffler, his wife Lori and their two sons Zack, 23, and Nate, 17, were killed in the crash on one boat. Katie Leffler, their only daughter, and a friend survived the crash.

Robert Chauncey, 37 of Savannah, died on the second boat involved in the crash.

The Georgia DNR has charged Mark Stegall, a local business owner, with boating under the influence.

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Chris Leffler worked as a history teacher and coach at at Calvary Day School, a private Christian school in Savannah.

“We love the Leffler family and our hearts are broken. I want to thank all of the first responders and everyone who continues to pray for the Calvary community and the Leffler family. Everyone that knows them has seen faith in action. Chris, Lori, Zack, and Nate were loved by so many and will be missed dearly,” Dr. Hunter Chadwick said in a statement.

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“Chris was great at building relationships with students, parents, and peers. He was an outstanding teacher, coach, and he was a friend. Nate, a Senior at Calvary Day, had a quiet demeanor, contagious smile, and passion for athletics. He was well-liked by his peers, was a great brother, and a loving son.”

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According to DNR, game wardens were called to a boat crash on the Wilmington River near the Oatland Island Wildlife Center docks where Richardson Creek and the Wilmington River meet in Chatham County at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

Witnesses said two center console boats were going in opposite directions when they crashed into one another.

Channel 2′s ABC affiliate WJCL News 22 got a picture of Stegall talking with police on the river Saturday.

According to public records, he owns several restaurants across the low country. He is also an avid boater and owns several boats.

DNR investigators are still digging into the case. The department said it will continue to investigate for another six to eight weeks.

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