Lake Eloise Winter Haven
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Lake Eloise Winter Haven
Source: PCSO

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – Two men, believed to have drowned in Lake Eloise on Saturday, were identified as the missing boaters, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

At 4:12 p.m. on Saturday, March 18, 2023, the 10-year-old daughter of Jeffrey Marrero from Auburndale called 911 to report that she and her 8-year-old sister were alone on a boat on Lake Eloise.

The boat, a 16-foot Tahoe ski boat, had been rented by Marrero’s friends, 38-year-old Velcky Velasquez and her boyfriend, 32-year-old Orlando Ortiz, both of Winter Haven, to celebrate their one-year anniversary of being together.

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Central District deputies Glenda Eichholtz and Jonathan Munoz heard the 911 call via the Live 911 system, and self-dispatched to the Lake Summit boat ramp, knowing there is no public access to Lake Eloise.

When they arrived at the boat ramp, they saw a man who was just putting his boat into the water.

They asked for his assistance, and he immediately agreed to transport them from Lake Summit and through the canal to the adjacent lake, Lake Eloise.

The deputies and Good Samaritan found the boat with the two little girls.

Deputy Munoz got onto that boat and drove them to the nearby Legoland dock.

The deputies then found Ms. Velasquez treading water far from the boat.

She told the deputies that she had jumped into the water with the anchor in order to secure the anchor to the boat, but due to the wind and heavy chop to the water, the boat began floating away.

The two men jumped into the water to help her. They are not strong swimmers and ended up going underwater.

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Lake Eloise is near the Legoland theme park in Winter Haven.

While the lake is located next to LegoLand, the theme park released a statement saying that the incident did not happen at its park:

“A boating incident occurred on Lake Eloise today,” the statement read. “While the incident did not occur at our attraction and is not connected with us in any way, our staff is providing comfort to the family and the Hotel boardwalk is being utilized as a command center. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.”

The PCSO Marine Unit and FWC using side scan sonar, and Seminole County deputies using their underwater drone, will be searching Lake Eloise 24/7 until both men are found. The lake will be closed to the public until they are found.

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