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Mar 19, 2023

PCSO conducting two death investigations after two boaters jumped into Lake Eloise

Media Contact: Carrie Horstman, Administrator

The Polk County Sheriff's Office is conducting two death investigations on two men who jumped out of a rental boat into Lake Eloise on Saturday, March 18, 2023, and sank, unable to swim. The Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death for both men was drowning, and that the manner of death was accidental.


The Polk County Sheriff's Office and partnering agencies are searching Lake Eloise in Winter Haven for two men who appeared to have drowned after jumping into the water from a rental boat. Click here to hear Sheriff Judd's remarks on the PCSO YouTube channel. 

Preliminary details are as follows:

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, 30-year-old Orlando Ortiz, both of Winter Haven, to celebrate their one-year anniversary of being together.

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 that 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, which is Lake Eloise.

The deputies and Good Samaritan found the boat with the two little girls in it. Deputy Munoz got onto that boat and drove them to the nearby Legoland dock. The deputies then found Ms. Velasquez treading water a distance away 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.

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.

Please keep these families in your prayers.

UPDATE, 5:00 P.M. MONDAY, MARCH 20, 2023:

Mr. Marrero and Mr. Ortiz were located 150 yards apart, submerged in the lake, by the FWC using sonar equipment during the afternoon hours of Monday, March 20, 2023. Dive teams recovered both bodies, and the Medical Examiner will conduct autopsies to determine their exact causes of death. 

UPDATE, 11:00 A.M. TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2023:

The Medical Examiner for the 10th Circuit conducted autopsies on both men, and determined that the cause of death for both was drowning, and the manner of death for both is accidental.