Sen. Garlan Gudger issues 1st public statement since July 4 jet ski accident

Sen. Garlan Gudger (Alabama Senate)
Sen. Garlan Gudger (Alabama Senate)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, on Sunday, July 7, issued a public statement from UAB Hospital, where he remains under treatment following a serious Fourth of July jet ski accident that resulted in three fractured vertebrae, six fractured ribs, a punctured lung and internal bleeding.

Gudger was airlifted to UAB Hospital on Thursday, July 4, following the accident on Smith Lake in which his personal watercraft was struck from behind by another, and he underwent a brief surgical procedure upon arrival to address the internal bleeding.

The statement from Gudger, a two-term senator who represents portions of Cullman, Marion and Winston counties, read:

“If it had not been for the bystanders at the dock, the first responders who treated me at lakeside, the emergency helipad that had been installed by Trident Marina, Alabama’s Air Evac Flight Team, and an amazing group of UAB doctors, nurses, and administrators, I am certain that the outcome of this accident would have been much different.

“I remain under watch in UAB’s Intensive Care Unit but have been able to walk down the hallway.

“The physical recovery will be a difficult one for our family, but it will be made easier by the intercessory prayers being sent by friends, family, constituents, colleagues, and even total strangers who understand that healing comes from God.

“At this time, I must focus on getting better and will not be able to accept visitors, but please know how grateful my family and I are for everyone who has reached out to offer help and concern.”

According to a media release from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) on July 5, the incident occurred at approximately 3:15 p.m. Thursday, July 4. The agency said Gudger, 49, was injured when the 2024 Sea-Doo GTI personal watercraft (PWC) he was operating was struck in the rear by a 2019 Sea-Doo GTI PWC operated by his son, Garlan E. Gudger III, 21, of Cullman.

“The collision caused both individuals to be thrown into the water, however, both Gudger Jr., and Gudger III were wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs). Bystanders in the area assisted both individuals out of the water and transported them to a nearby dock. Garlan E. Gudger Jr., was evaluated by local emergency medical services personnel (EMS) and was subsequently transported via helicopter to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Hospital for medical treatment. Garlan E. Gudger III was also evaluated by local EMS personnel but was released at the scene,” said the release from ALEA.

The incident occurred in Little Crooked Creek area (also known as Rock Creek) of Smith Lake near Crane Hill in Cullman County. ALEA said the Crane Hill Volunteer Fire Department and Cullman EMS both responded to the scene and assisted with medical treatment and transport.