Curse of Lake Lanier: Body of Dorian Pinson, 20, recovered, but what really happened to him?

Dorian Pinson drowned at the infamous Georgia lake in April and a private dive team from Wisconsin were able to find his body 86 days later


                            Curse of Lake Lanier: Body of Dorian Pinson, 20, recovered, but what really happened to him?
Dorian Pinson, who drowned in Lake Lanier in April 2021 (Lincoln Memorial University Athletics)

Dorian Pinson, 20, and his friends went boating in the infamous Lake Lanier on April 18. Unfortunately, he ended up being one of the many victims of the cursed lake and drowned that day. Around 86 days later, rescue crews managed to finally recover his body, thanks to some help from modern technology and the generosity of a Wisconsin-based nonprofit. 

We have extensively reported on Lake Lanier here at MEAWW, with numerous people having been reported missing at the Georgia reservoir. The "curse" has also struck in other ways, such as explosions and fires. On July 4, an Independence Day celebration went wrong when a dock at the lake sank while people were partying on it. Over the July 4 weekend in 2020, two people drowned at the lake, prompting a since-viral message of the lake being haunted.

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Since 1994, roughly 200 people have died at the lake, one of the deadliest in the US. Many of those victims have never been found, with the lake going as deep as 200 feet in some places. Luckily for the Pinson family, that was not the case. They were finally able to say goodbye to their beloved son after his body was found on July 15.

A view of Lake Lanier (Mike Gonzalez/Wikimedia Commons)

What happened to Dorian Pinson?

As with most cases on Lake Lanier, there is a lot of confusion about what happened. WYFF 4 reported that Pinson had gone boating with two other friends on a rented pontoon. At some point, they either fell off or jumped from the pontoon into the lake. A passing boat was able to rescue Pinson's friends, but the Greenville native never resurfaced. His two friends said they were unable to make it back to the boat because of the wind. 

Hill County officials spent weeks attempting to find Pinson's body but suspended their efforts. Then in June, the family started a fundraising campaign to hire a private dive team to continue the efforts. At the time, Alicia and Johnny Pinson, Dorian's parents, quit their jobs and moved from Greenville to Gainesville to be closer to the crews. In the end, it was the private team that managed to locate the basketball star. 

A Wisconsin-based non-profit, Bruce's Legacy, was credited with finding Pinson's body. According to the website, the organization provides "search and recovery operations for drowned victims." To help locate Pinson, the organization turned to sector scan sonar, and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Public Affairs Officer Mark McKinnon told WYFF that the team had been searching for five days, in conjunction with the Georgia DNR Law Enforcement game wardens, Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Also involved in the efforts was Lake Lanier Recovery Divers. 

Lake Lanier area is seen on July 22, 2012, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Moses Robinson/Getty Images)

Richard Pickering, who works with the organization said the groups paid out of pocket for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of technology and equipment. However, they refused to be compensated out of respect for Pinson's family,11 Alive reported. "During the five-day search, the game wardens covered over 300 acres of lake using a grid search pattern. On the sixth day after the incident, they transitioned to surface searches and shore sweeps," McKinnon said. After he was recovered, Pinson's body was sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab and released to the family an hour later. 

According to reports, Pinson was a professional basketball player, having played at Southside High School, and  Lincoln Memorial University. In 2018, he moved to Germany to represent Hebeisen White Wings Hanau. He has also played professionally in Israel and Canada, according to one German website

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