Local News

FWC restarts search for missing Avon Park boater

—The search for an Avon Park boater separated from three other men after their boat capsized early Sunday morning continued Tuesday.

Enrique Rodriguez, 63, of Avon Park, went missing after a 21-foot fishing boat he was on tipped over about eight miles from Egmont Key, across from Fort De Soto Park in Tampa Bay.

Baryl Martin, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – Southwest spokesman, said around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, that two to four officers with FWC are out in boats, combing the area about eight miles from Egmont Key.

Martin said the search began about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and another shift would start around 3 p.m.

“The search will continue until dark or at least until weather conditions become a hindrance to the effectiveness of the search,” he said.

The search was changed from a search-and-rescue to a search-and-recovery effort Monday afternoon.

Martin told Highlands Today Monday that Rodriguez left Fort De Soto around 5 p.m. Saturday on a fishing trip with 25-year-old Joaquin Machado, of Greeley, Colo., and Avon Park residents Andrew Hernandez, 26, and Manuel Perez, 41.

Rodriguez’s boating companions were rescued without injuries after choppy seas caused their boat to take on water, according to a Coast Guard report. Flooding in the vessel upset the stability of the boat and it capsized around 2 a.m.

Martin said the three men clung to one life jacket and a cooler to stay afloat but were separated from Rodriguez.

After capsizing, the men made it to a navigational buoy in the shipping channel about eight miles west of Egmont Key. Skyway Buoy number 5 was large enough for the three men to climb onto, and that’s where they were found by a passing boater about 6 a.m. Sunday, who immediately called the Coast Guard.