Wealthy winter park family named in lawsuit over drowning death

WINTER PARK, Fla. — 9 Investigates uncovered a lawsuit accusing a wealthy Winter Park family of negligence in the death of one of their son’s friends.

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We have also learned that investigators have referred the case to prosecutors for possible criminal charges.

Channel 9 was at the scene on Memorial Day 2021 when crews searched for 20-year-old Charles Carter, known to his friends as Harry. Investigators said he entered the water in Lake Osceola on the Winter Park chain of lakes and never resurfaced.

Crews ultimately recovered his body.

Investigative reporter Karla Ray read through the lawsuit that argues that Carter should have never been on the boat that night and that he went into the water “involuntarily.”

READ: Missing swimmer, 20, found dead at Lake Osceola in Winter Park

At a multimillion dollar home on one of Winter Park’s most exclusive lakes, the lawsuit claims that a Memorial Day party last year ended in tragedy after Carter drowned following a day of drinking with friends.

At the time, police told us the missing 20-year-old was swimming off the side of the boat and did not resurface.

The suit, just filed against the young man’s friend, Adrian Preston Brown, and his parents, J. Powell and Nancy Brown, claims that Carter entered the water ‘involuntarily’ and argues he should never have been on the boat in the first place.

It lays out allegations that the Browns knew Preston and his friends, who were under the legal drinking age, were using the Brown family’s boat on Lake Osceola while drinking beer and hard liquor.

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The suit states that during the final boat outing of the Memorial Day party, the younger Brown, who goes by Preston, left the dock at the Brown home with several of his “underage friends, including Harry Carter,” who the lawsuit states was “obviously highly intoxicated and severely impaired, and in no condition to be going back out on the boat.”

That’s when, in the middle of Lake Osceola, Harry Carter ‘involuntarily’ entered the water, where due to his “severe impairment from alcohol consumption, he never made his way back to the surface.”

J. Powell Brown, named in the suit as the owner of a boat being used by his son, calculates risk for a living. He’s the president and CEO of Brown & Brown Inc., which boasts being the 5th largest independent insurance brokerage in the country.

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9 Investigates’ attempts to reach J. Powell Brown were unsuccessful, but by phone, Nancy Brown said the family had no comment.

The attorney representing the estate of Carter also had no comment at this time.

Winter Park Police did call for charges in this case. It was originally submitted to the 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney but has been sent to the 18th Judicial Circuit via executive assignment. Prosecutors in Seminole County said the case is still pending.

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.