Search for missing Florida boaters in lake near Legoland

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Authorities are searching for two missing boaters believed to have drowned in a central Florida lake near Legoland theme park.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Authorities searched Sunday for two boaters who were missing and believed to have drowned in an accident in a central Florida lake near the Legoland theme park.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told a news conference that the two men had jumped into Lake Eloise to save a third person in their group, a woman, who was struggling in the water. The men became separated from the boat and have not been seen since Saturday night.

The third person, Velcky Velazques, 38, was rescued by sheriff’s deputies who had been summoned when a 10-year-old girl on the boat called 911 from a cell phone. That 8-year-old boy and girl remained on the drifting boat and were safely rescued by deputies, who had seized a fishing boat whose owner cooperated in the effort, Judd said.

The lake, adjacent to Legoland in Winter Haven, was rough Saturday with 20 mph (32 kph) winds and some whitecaps, Judd said. He added that the weather problems were compounded by the inexperience of the sailors, who had chartered the boat for an outing that day.

The trouble started when the Velazques jumped into the water with an anchor, the sheriff said.

“She’s very inexperienced, so she thinks you’re supposed to get in the water, set the anchor, and then tie it to the boat,” Judd said.

The disappeared were identified as Orlando Ortiz, 32, Velazques’ boyfriend, and Jeffrey Marrero, 34, father of the two girls. Judd said the search will continue using sonar and underwater drones until they are found.

“We don’t allow anyone’s loved one to stay in the lake. We will find them,” Judd said.

Winter Haven is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Tampa.

Legoland issued a statement on Saturday saying the incident is “not related to us in any way.” He added that officials were using a boardwalk at his hotel as a command center.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time,” the statement said.

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