Search Continues for 2 Missing Florida Boaters

Two men left on a fishing trip on Lake Tarpon on Saturday afternoon and have not returned since.

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Lake Tarpon

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

    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' daughter called his cellphone to check on them.

    The Tampa Bay Times reports Ragins told his daughter he'd be home in a couple of hours. She fell asleep and he still wasn't home when she woke up on Sunday.

    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. Deputies said the search was expected to continue Monday as soon as the sun came out.

    Willie Ragins mother, Saretha Ragins, said rescuers found two coolers, a tackle box and a life jacket on Sunday. They also found a vehicle and boat trailer near the lake.

    Family members say Hightower and Robinson are best friends who often fish together. The two men went out fishing in a 14-foot aluminum Jon Boat.

    Hightower's neighbor, William Robinson Jr., said Hightower has been fishing since he was a child. Robinson said he's often gone on overnight fishing trips with his neighbor.

    "They have a habit of going out and staying out at night and coming back the next day," he said. "But if they didn't find the boat, then something went wrong. This ain't never come up before."

    Lake Tarpon has 2,500 acres of water and is the largest lake in Pinellas County.

    Deputies asked boaters and visitors in the area to contact the sheriff’s office in case they see anything suspicious.