Bodies of 2 missing men found 150 yards apart in Polk County lake

The men had been missing since jumping in Lake Eloise on Saturday to try to help another boater who got separated from the boat.
Polk County deputies search Lake Eloise for two boaters who went missing Saturday. Their bodies were found on Monday.
Polk County deputies search Lake Eloise for two boaters who went missing Saturday. Their bodies were found on Monday. [ Polk County Sheriff's Office ]
Published March 20|Updated March 21

The bodies of two men who went missing in a Polk County lake on Saturday were found on Monday, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported.

The bodies of Orlando Ortiz, 30, of Winter Haven, and Jeffrey Marrero, 34, of Auburndale, were found about 150 yards apart on Monday afternoon, the agency reported in a news release.

Ortiz and his girlfriend, Velcky Velasquez, 38, had rented a boat on Saturday to celebrate their one-year anniversary. Marrero, a friend of theirs, came on the trip along with his two daughters, who are 10 and 8.

They went out to the middle of Lake Eloise in central Polk County. The lake shares part of its shoreline with Legoland.

Shortly after 4 p.m., Marrero’s 10-year old daughter dialed 911 and said she and her sister were alone on the boat. Two Polk County deputies headed to the nearby Lake Summit boat ramp, knowing there is no public access to Lake Eloise, according to a news release.

They spotted a man putting his fishing boat into the water and asked for assistance finding the children. He took the deputies from Lake Summit and through the canal to Lake Eloise, according to the release.

Deputies found Velasquez, treading water in the lake. She said she had jumped in with the anchor to secure it to the boat. But due to the wind and heavy waves, the 16-foot boat began floating away.

Deputies also discovered the two sisters adrift on the boat, surrounded by a two-foot chop.

Ortiz and Marrero were missing.

Velasquez told deputies that they Ortiz and Marrero had jumped into the water to help her. The men went underwater, she told the deputies. With the two girls onboard, meanwhile, the boat continued to drift.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference Sunday morning that the couple had taken a class on boating safety before leaving shore but were inexperienced boaters. Ortiz and Marrero also were not strong swimmers, officials said.

The Sherriff’s Marine Unit worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Seminole County deputies to find the men’s bodies.

The lake, which had been closed to the public during the search, was open on Monday afternoon.

Times Staff Writer Olivia George contributed to this report.