Bodies of 2 missing boaters who vanished Saturday on Winter Haven lake recovered

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — The bodies of two boaters who vanished Saturday while boating on Lake Eloise in Winter Haven were recovered Monday afternoon.


Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said search teams discovered the body of Jeffrey Marrero at about 1:30 p.m. about 16 feet beneath the water’s surface some 300 to 400 feet offshore.

Two hours later, they discovered the body of Orlando Ortiz about 150 feet away. The search lasted almost 48 hours.

Read: ‘We are totally devastated’: Polk County sheriff gives update on missing boaters

“I’m pleased that we found these folks,” Judd said. “I’m very sorry that we didn’t find them alive, but we didn’t anticipate we would.”

The Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, which used its underwater drone as part of the search.

Judd said Ortiz and his girlfriend had rented a boat to celebrate their anniversary, bringing along Merarro and his daughters along for the ride.

Read: Kissimmee police searching for person who shot, killed man Saturday afternoon

He said Ortiz’s girlfriend jumped into the water with the anchor while trying to anchor the boat in the middle of the lake.

The rope that was secured to the anchor was not secured to the boat for some reason, Judd said.

He said that the woman struggled in the water, so Ortiz and Marrero jumped into the water to help her, but she was the only one to surface.

Read: Charges dropped against teen accused in deadly shooting outside Jones High football game

“It’s a tragedy of monumental proportions,” Judd said.

Watch his full news conference below:

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.

Jason Kelly

Jason Kelly, WFTV.com

Jason Kelly joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2014. He serves as the station's Digital Executive Producer.

Comments on this article