BARTOW, Fla. (AP) - UPDATE: Pasco County Sheriff's Office found 18-year-old, Austin Welch's body in Peace River. There has been an ongoing search for him since he jumped in the water to save his sister on Sept. 3, 2016.
According to PCSO, he was trapped by debris in the water and it appears that he drowned. Further details will be made available after the autopsy.
"Austin lost his life saving the life of his 11-year-old sister. 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, " Sheriff Grady Judd commented.
On Saturday morning, 35-year-old Barbara Engles of Bartow and her two children, 11-year-old Crystal Droze and 18-year-old Austin Welch went fishing on the Peace River, at the Peace River Canoe Launch / boat ramp located off of SR 60 in Bartow. At some point, Crystal was standing on the dock, and cast her line, losing her footing and falling into the water. Her brother Austin jumped in after her to save her. Her mother Barbara also jumped in to save both kids. The water was fairly deep, and the current was and is still running very fast.
Barbara and Crystal were able to grab each other -- Barbara grabbed Austin's shirt but he was swept away. Barbara and Crystal were able to grab some grass, and pull themselves to shore. Barbara ran out to SR 60 to flag someone down for help.
PCSO arrived on-scene around 11:30 a.m. this morning. FWC also arrived on-scene to assist in the search. Polk Fire EMS is also on-scene. All three agencies are working to locate Austin.
Due to weather, the PCSO helicopter was only able to fly a short amount of time early on during the search. Now FWC has an airplane flying overhead.
Anyone who sees Austin is urged to contact PCSO immediately. Officials are hoping he was able to make it out of the water and might be walking in the area.
Austin is described as a white male, 6' tall, 175 lbs., with shoulder-length black hair dyed red in some places. He was last seen wearing a Batman tank top, blue jeans, and brown boat shoes. He has a tattoo on his right shoulder of a broken heart. His mother advises his hair is longer than pictured.
PCSO will remain on-scene until Austin is found. Anyone who sees Austin is urged to contact PCSO immediately at 863-298-6200.