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Dive team recovers body of missing 18-year-old in the Peace River

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Posted at 6:30 PM, Sep 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-04 13:26:46-04

UPDATE: The body of 18-year-old Austin Welch has been recovered from the Peace River, Polk County sheriff's officials said Sunday.

The Bartow man's body was discovered trapped in debris a couple hundred yards from the dock. It also is the spot where Welch's mother saw him go under.

On Saturday, Welch, his mother and his 11-year-old sister were fishing Saturday on the river. Welch jumped in the water to rescue his sister, who fell in the river while casting her line. Welch's mother, Barbara Engles, said she jumped in to save them both.

Engles and her daughter safely made it out of the water. . 

Members of the Polk County Sheriff's Office Dive Team assisted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission used a side-scanning sonar device to help locate and recover Welch's body.

An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. The release states Welch appears to have drowned.

Original Story | Water search for teen swept away in river

POLK COUNTY, Fla. - Search and rescue crews in Polk County are currently looking for an 18-year-old that was swept away in the Peace River.

Austin Welch, 18 of Bartow was fishing off the the dock near the Peace River Canoe Launch in Bartow with his mother Barbara Engles, 35, and his 11-year-old sister Crystal Droze.

At some point in the morning, Droze cast her line into the water and fell into the river.  Welch jumped into the water to save her. Engles jumped into the river to save them both. 

Engles was able to pull herself and Droze to safety on shore, but Welch was swept away by the rushing water.

Polk County Sheriff’s Officers and Florida Fish and Wildlife officers have several boats in the water looking for Welch.  Polk County Fire is also aiding in the search.

PCSO is hoping that Welch was able to make it out of the water and might be walking in the area.  If anyone sees Welch they are urged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 863-298-6200.