“Florida Boaters Missing After Jumping into Lake to Rescue Woman”
Two men are missing after leaping into a Florida lake while trying to rescue a stranded woman (Picture: AP)
Authorities are presuming two missing boaters are dead after a family day at the lake turned into a tragedy for five people in Winter Haven, Florida.
The missing men were identified as Orlando Ortiz, 32, and Jeffrey Marrero, 34. They had leaped into the water to rescue Velcky Velazques, 38, who was floating away from the boat due to an anchor mishap.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the three were ‘inexperienced boaters’ who rented the vessel on Saturday to celebrate Ortiz and Velazques’s anniversary. Marrero also brought his two daughters onboard, ages 10 and 8.
The sheriff said the incident began Saturday evening, when the boaters were experiencing tough conditions on Lake Eloise.
Polk County Sheriff’s Deputies search Lake Eloise for the missing boaters (Picture: AP)
‘It is a rough day on the water. The wind is blowing 20 miles per hour, there’s a two-foot chop with white caps, and it’s a breezy afternoon,’ the sheriff said.
Despite this, the boaters decided to drop anchor near the center of the lake.
‘At that time, Miss Velazques takes the anchor and jumps into the water,’ Judd said. ‘That anchor rope is not tied to the boat. She’s just very inexperienced, and she thinks you need to get into the water, put the anchor in, and then tie it to the boat.’
As Velazques struggled with the anchor, the boat began to float away. Ortiz and Marrero then jumped into the lake in an effort to rescue the stranded woman.
Authorities are presuming the two missing boaters did not survive after the incident on Saturday (Picture: AP)
The sheriff described the two men as ‘average swimmers,’ and said Velazquez had more experience swimming. She was able to float on her back, but lost track of the two men moments later.
Meanwhile, Marrero’s two daughters call 911 on from the boat – which is still anchorless and floating further and further away from the victims.
Two Polk County Sheriff’s Deputies respond to the call immediately. They find a nearby fisherman and commandeer his boat.
The deputies were able to rescue Velazques, who was still floating on her back in the lake. But the two men were nowhere to be found, and the boat carrying the children had floated away.
‘The boat continues, and has now pushed all the way across the lake into the swamp area with the children on board,’ Judd said. Now they can’t get to children.’
The sheriff said one deputy then stripped off his equipment and swam into the swamp to reach the frightened kids. He was able to get to the boat and drive it to a dock on the property of the LegoLand amusement park.
Judd said that the two men are presumed dead, but the department will not stop searching the lake until they are found.
‘Our policy at the sheriff’s department is, when someone goes into the lake, we never leave until we find them. And that’s 24/7,’ Judd said. ‘We’re there. We’re involved. We’re searching for these two missing gentlemen as if they were our brothers or our children. And we will continue to look for them.’
Judd said the sheriff’s department is using aerial and underwater drones, helicopters, and additional personnel and resources from Seminole County Sheriff’s Office to assist in the search.
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