Search for missing boaters on Lake Tarpon - FOX 13 News

Search for missing boaters on Lake Tarpon

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The search for two boaters who went missing while fishing on Lake Tarpon Saturday night resumed Monday morning.

Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies say 43-year-old Willie Ragins and 64-year-old Willie Hightower left on a fishing trip on Saturday afternoon. They were last heard from about 10 p.m. when Ragins' family members talked to him.

We're told the two men are close friends from Plant City and go fishing a lot together.

Around midnight, his mother, Saretha Ragins, said she called his cell phone and it went straight to voicemail.

Deputies started searching for the men around noon Sunday, using helicopters, sonar and boats. The search was eventually called off because of rain and low visibility after sunset. They found a chair, two coolers and a life jacket in the water on the northern end of the lake.

On Monday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission joined the search for the two men.

Lake Tarpon has 2,500 acres of water and is the largest lake in Pinellas County. In most spots it's between 6 and 8 feet deep. In some places, deputies say it reaches 20 feet deep.

The boat, which belongs to Ragins, is missing. They also found a vehicle and boat trailer near the lake.

Saretha Ragins and other relatives sat on a bench near the lake Monday, watching as crews began the second day of searching.

"I'm hoping," she said. "Praying for a miracle."

Family members say Hightower and Robinson are best friends who often fish together.

Hightower's wife, Mildred, was also at the lake, watching from her. She and Hightower have been married about 18 years. She said he calls regularly when he goes on a fishing trip to check on her. She had a stroke about 10 years ago that left her partially paralyzed.

When he didn't check on her Saturday night, she said she began to worry.

"I have hope," she said. "I'm really going to miss him. He's all I got. Me and him."

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