Body recovered in search for missing boater on Lakeland's Lake Gibson

Posted at 11:58 AM, Jul 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-31 11:07:01-04

UPDATE | Monday at 11 a.m.

The deceased has been identified as the missing boater:  32-year-old, Cornelius R. Wiggins, 
of Plant City, Florida. Mr. Wiggins next of kin has been notified. The accident is still under investigation.

UPDATE | Sunday at 8 p.m.

Florida Fish and Wildlife is reporting that a body has been recovered in Lake Gibson at around 7:00 p.m.  They are working with the family to identify the body.


A day on scenic Lake Gibson in Lakeland ended with a search for a missing boater, authorities said.

“Of course everybody is distraught, you see puffy eyes," said Aerial Coleman, the missing boater's sister, "People are choked up. It’s difficult.”

A search is underway on the lake for 32-year-old Cornelius Wiggins of Plant City, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office notified the FWC about 5:30 p.m. Saturday about a report of a missing boater on Lake Gibson, FWC spokesman Officer James Boogaerts said.

Wiggins was one of three people on a 21-foot boat motoring across the lake.

Authorities were told Wiggins jumped off the boat in an attempt to retrieve a pair of sunglasses that had fallen overboard.

“This is not new. They always boat. He’s a strong man. He’s a wrestler for God’s sake," said Coleman.

Boogaerts said the driver of the boat turned around and returned to the area on the lake where Wiggins went into the water.

They threw a floatable device in Wiggins direction., but he went under and did not resurface. A friend tells us Wiggins is familiar with the water. In fact, he finished a boating safety course last week. The family holding on to hope.

“I’m hoping he swam to land somewhere," said Coleman, "I’m assuming his phone was in his pocket maybe his phone is not working.”

Despite these hopes, Coleman says they are not blind to the possibility something terrible went wrong.

“We’re all adults. We know what goes on. We hope for the best but you also expect the worst," she said.

The FWC dive team assisted by the Lakeland Police Department and Polk County Sheriff's Office launched a search Saturday evening. The dive team was back in the water Sunday to continue the search.