State Sen. Garlan Gudger injured when son struck his jet ski from behind on Smith Lake, troopers say

By Carol Robinson

State Sen. Garlan E. Gudger Jr.(Contributed)

State investigators released new information Friday about a Fourth of July jet ski crash that seriously injured Alabama State Sen. Garlan E. Gudger.

The 49-year-old senator from Cullman was driving a 2024 Sea-Doo GTI Sunday afternoon when the personal watercraft was struck in the rear by another Sea-Doo driven by his son, 21-year-old Garlan E. Gudger III, ALEA Trooper Sgt. Jeremy Burkett said Friday.

The collision happened at 3:15 p.m. Thursday in the Little Crooked Creek area, also known as Rock Creek, on Smith Lake in Cullman County.

Burkett said the crash caused both drivers to be thrown into the water, but both were wearing personal flotation devices.

Burkett said bystanders in the area assisted the father and son out of the water and took them to a nearby dock.

Gudger Jr. was airlifted to UAB Hospital where he was in the Intensive Care Unit after undergoing surgery. He sustained internal bleeding and other injures, according to a statement released by the Alabama State Senate.

Gudger III was evaluated by paramedics and released on the scene.

Gudger’s wife, Heather, released the following statement late Thursday night:

“From the first responders who were quickly on the scene to the members of the helicopter airlift unit to the doctors and nurses at UAB and everyone else who assisted during this accident, we offer our deepest thanks and recognition that each of them kept a difficult situation from being even worse.”

“To those across the state who have reached out and lifted up our family with their prayers of mending and comfort, we feel your support and know that God holds Garlan in his healing hands.”

“Everyone who knows Garlan is aware that he is a strong, tough, and energetic man who will recover from these injuries and continue serving the citizens of his district while promoting the conservative Alabama values that so many of us hold close.”

The Cullman Republican was elected to the state senate in 2018, according to a biography on the Alabama Senate Republicans webpage.

The Crane Hill Fire Department and Cullman EMS both responded to the scene and assisted with medical treatment and transport.

The investigation is ongoing by ALEA’s Marine Patrol Division.