Bodies of boaters found in Lake Tarpon

ASSOCIATED PRESSJanuary 3, 2014 

TARPON SPRINGS -- Search crews found the bodies of two missing boaters four days after their aluminum fishing boat apparently sank in Lake Tarpon.

Investigators say the bodies of 43-year-old Willie Ragins and 64-year-old Willie Hightower were pulled from the lake on New Year's afternoon. They went missing Dec. 29 during a fishing trip on Pinellas County's largest lake.

Ragins' sister-in-law Teronica Dixon told The Tampa Tribune the waiting had been difficult for her sister, Salesia Ragins.

"My sister will be at ease and at peace," she said, adding that it wasn't the outcome they were hoping for. "She can take him home and put him to rest."

Dixon said her sister last spoke the Ragins on Saturday night by cell phone. He told her during the 10:20 p.m. phone call that he expected to be home in a couple of hours. He never showed. By the next morning, Salesia Ragins checked with hospitals and finally called the Pinellas County Sheriff's office.

Deputies found Ragins truck and boat trailer parked near the lake. Later Sunday, searchers found a life jacket, two coolers and a chair floating in the water.

Ragins' 14-foot boat hasn't been located and investigators say they don't know what led to the accident.

Dixon said her sister had been married to Ragins for 21 years and they have four children and six grandchildren.

Ragins and Hightower were good friends who enjoyed fishing together. A weekend excursion wasn't unusual for her brother-in-law, Dixon said, adding that the ordeal had been difficult on both families, as they waited near the lake.

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