The Lake Eloise drowning incident occurred on Saturday, March 18, 2023, when an anniversary celebration turned into a heartfelt situation.
On Monday afternoon, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced that the two missing boatmen, Velcky Velasquez and Orlando Ortiz, had been found dead at the bottom of Lake Eloise in Winter Haven.
The tragic discovery was the result of a search and recovery mission that began Saturday night when the Polk County Sheriff’s Office received a call just after 5 p.m.
According to officials, Velasquez and Ortiz celebrated their one-year anniversary of being together with their boyfriend, Jeffrey Marrero, and his two daughters.
The group of Lake Eloise drowning victims had rented a 18-foot Tahoe ski boat to go out on Lake Eloise, which is near the Legoland theme park.
As the group tried to secure the boat in the middle of the lake, Velasquez jumped into the water with the anchor.
However, due to the wind and the violent waves of the water, the boat began to drift away.
Both Marrero and Ortiz entered the water to help her, but ended up underwater.
Marrero’s 10-year-old daughter called 911 to report that she and her 8-year-old sister were alone on the boat.
Deputies found Velasquez treading water as he searched for the two missing men.
They also knew they had to rescue the children who were on the boat, which had been pushed all the way across the lake into the marshland.
Deputy Munoz stripped off his gear, jumped in and swam to the boat trapped in the weeds to rescue the kids. He was able to start the boat and drive it around to a dock.
Unfortunately, the search for Ortiz and Marrero continued and their bodies were found about 300 to 400 meters offshore and about 150 meters apart. Judd said FWC sonar was helpful in finding the bodies.
Witnesses on the lake, including Kyle Cannon, who was also on the water Saturday, reported that the wind was strong enough to make the lake dangerous for even experienced boaters.
Cannon, who grew up driving boats and lives near the lake, said Lake Eloise attracts many boaters and it is easy for inexperienced boaters to rent a boat or jet ski, which can lead to dangerous situations to lead.
He described the scene as one “war zone” and emphasized that the choppy water makes it difficult to navigate.