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How families are finding closure after boaters died at Clarks Hill Lake

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 8:22 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The families of EJ Kirk and Eynn Wilson have finally gotten some closure, mourning the men in a vigil a day after the missing boaters’ bodies were found at Clarks Hill Lake.

The families were trying to find a way to move forward. They say they’re finally able to be at peace knowing their loved ones can be laid to rest after a seven-day search.

Eynn Wilson and EJ Kirk ended up in the lake while boating on April 25 and never surfaced. 

Their bodies were found Saturday, with Wilson’s body discovered just after 8 a.m. Saturday and Kirk’s was found nearby just after 4 p.m.

During Sunday’s vigil at Meadowbrook Park in Augusta, both families stood together hand in hand on Sunday reflecting on their lives.

They gathered together, releasing red and silver balloons into the sky as a celebration of the men’s lives.

Both parents say it’s a terrible tragedy that brought them closer together.

They say things will be hard, but they have faith that bigger things are ahead — and they’re hoping this tragedy will bring unity as well as awareness for those out on the water.

Hundreds of people gathered at Meadowbrook Park in Augusta for Sunday’s vigil.

“Eynn and EJ, they’re both in a better place,” said Eniyah Kirk, EJ’s eldest daughter.

Although it was supposed to be a celebration, the day was still tinged with sadness.

From left: Eynn Wilson and Edward Kirk
From left: Eynn Wilson and Edward Kirk

“My grandma, I just — I hurt for her. And the two little ones [his youngest daughters], because they’re growing up without a daddy. They didn’t deserve that, either,” said Kirk.

During the balloon release, the men’s moms stood together arm in arm, brought together by tragedy. Their families tell us the experience has made them closer, too.

“We just have to get closer as a unit, as a family. To honor EJ’s legacy, and help raise his children, and remind them of how great their father was,” said LaKesha Johnson, EJ’s sister.

The vigil also served as a homecoming, as families have been able to be at peace knowing their loved one’s bodies can be laid to rest after a seven day search.

“This is more of a meaningful celebration because we’re celebrating them coming home,” Johnson said.

Throughout the day, both families reflected on life without EJ and Eynn.

“Gotta keep doing what he told me to do, finish school. Stay focused. Take care of my little sisters. You know, that’s the only thing I can do. Is just do what he said,” said Braniya Brown, one of Eynn’s children, through tears.

During the balloon release, colors of red and silver dotted the clouds.

“We’re going to paint the sky red,” said Shellah Thompson, Eynn’s sister.

With each balloon, there was another reminder that life will not be the same.

But some at the vigil say they have faith bigger things are ahead.

“I thank God out of all of it. He’s gonna pull things together, it’s going to wake us up in the community. They’re going to take more things seriously out on the water,” said Deadra Thompson, Eynn’s cousin.

And as these two families move forward through laughs, and through tears-- there’s no denying that both families will be forever intertwined.

Both families tell us they’re grateful for the support they’ve received, as well as the hard work from the dive team.

They say the biggest thing they need moving forward is more prayers.

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