Body of 18-year-old who rescued sister found

- Polk County deputies have recovered the body of 18-year-old Austin Welch, who went missing this weekend on a family fishing trip on the Peace River. That trip turned tragic when Welch was swept away by rushing waters.  

According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, Barbara Engles and her two children, 11-year old Crystal Droze and 18-year-old Austin Welch were fishing at the Peace River canoe launch off SR 60. At some point, Droze lost her footing on the dock after casting her line and fell into the water.

Welch and Engles jumped in after her, but officials say the water was deep and the current was too fast. Engles and her daughter were able to grab onto each other, and then grabbed Welch’s shirt, but he was swept away. 

Mother and daughter were able to grab onto some grass and pulled themselves to shore and that’s when Engles made it out to SR 60 to flag down help for her son.  Due to weather, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was only able to fly for a short amount of time during the early part of their search.

The Fish and Wild Life Conservation Commission’s plane and Polk Fire EMS combined their efforts to aid PCSO in locating Austin Welch. Officials say several rescue boats and a side-scan sonar were used to try to find Welch. 

His body was found Sunday, trapped by debris near where he was last seen by his mother, not far away from where he went under (a couple hundred yards from the dock where they all went in).

An autopsy will be conducted to determine his cause of death, but it appears he drowned.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office asks that everyone keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.

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