TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Polk County deputies located the body of a 9-year-old boy who fell into Lake Anne on Saturday.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said the boy, who is said to be from Port St. Lucie, was with his father and two brothers on a pontoon boat when he fell over without a life jacket.
The 9-year-old was then hit by the boat’s propeller.
Deputies said the boy’s father tried to jump into the water to look for his son but couldn’t find him. Meanwhile, one of the surviving children called 911.
“After the investigation began, we saw the child’s shirt wrapped around the propeller of the boat so we feared the absolute worst,” said Sheriff Grady Judd.
PCSO’s Marine Unit, Underwater Search and Recovery Team (USART), Aviation Unit, and Drone Units spent days looking for the child along with Polk County Fire Rescue, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.
However, rescue efforts were hampered by the lake’s depth and poor visibility, according to Sheriff Grady Judd.
“We’ve been there 24 hours a day since the event occurred until we found him,” he said.
Tuesday morning, the boy’s body was spotted from a helicopter floating near where he first went missing Saturday.
“We don’t expect any criminal charges at all. We’ve been asked, ‘well, why wasn’t he wearing a vest?’ The law does not require him to wear a vest at age of 9 while riding on a boat,” the sheriff said.
News Channel 8 asked Judd why his office did not release information about the incident until Monday, two days after the boy went missing.
“There was absolutely no denying he fell off of the boat. We found his shirt wrapped around the prop. We knew the child was in the lake. It’s not like we needed the community’s help in finding him,” he replied, noting it was a holiday weekend.