Sheriff: Bartow teen’s body recovered after search

Sheriff Judd talks about Bartow teen

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Deputies with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission searched for Austin Welch, a Bartow teenager who went missing after a fishing incident. His body was recovered Sunday morning, according to PCSO.

Saturday Barbie Engle went finishing with her 11-year-old daughter Crystal Droze and 18-year-old son Austin Welch.

“We were going to go fishing so we went to Wal-Mart and bought all this stuff that we need and we came out here, got everything ready and we were fishing and my daughter fell in,” she said.

Austin didn’t skip a beat when he saw his sister fall in the river. The teen went right in after her.

“He doesn’t hesitate to help someone else and he didn’t hesitate this time,” Engle added. “My son saved my daughter…”

Barbie also jumped in to help her children. She managed to grab a hold of Crystal and tried to reach Austin. But he went under the water.

Polk Sheriff Grady Judd confirmed at the press conference Sunday that an FWC helicopter spotted Austin’s body in the morning in the Peace River. He was 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, according to PCSO.

“Austin lost his life saving the life of his 11-year-old sister,” Sheriff Judd said. “We had hoped and prayed that we would find him safe on the shore somewhere. We searched for him for 24 hours, as if he were one of our own family members. Please keep his family in your prayers.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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