Just a few weeks ago........
Teen Missing After Accident
By Margarita Martin-Hidalgo
LAKELAND -- Polk County deputies searched Lake Gibson late Sunday for a 15-year-old Lakeland boy who was tossed into the water when two personal watercraft collided, a Polk County Sheriff's Office spokesman said Sunday.
Sheriff's spokesman Scott Wilder said investigators think Brad Hicks died in the accident.
As deputies searched Lake Gibson, dozens of family members and friends, many from Calvary Baptist Church, kept vigil. Some huddled in groups, wrapped in shawls and blankets on the chilly afternoon.
Several friends declined to comment for this story, saying it was a very difficult time for the family.
The accident occurred shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, just minutes after Hicks and his friend, David Norwood, 13, were dropped off at the boat ramp on Lake Gibson Park Road. Hicks' father, Daryl Hicks, took the boys for an afternoon outing after attending church and having lunch, Wilder said.
Norwood didn't require medical treatment and was able to give detectives an account of what happened. He told investigators that Hicks' Kawasaki 1100 Jet Ski veered into the path of Norwood's Yamaha Water Venture and the two boys were knocked off when the two watercraft collided, Wilder said.
At the time, Hicks was traveling at a relatively low speed, Wilder said.
Neither of the boys was wearing a life jacket, as is required by state law, Wilder said.
Hicks, a student at Lakeland Christian School, didn't make it to shore, Wilder said.
Norwood swam to shore and alerted a woman who lives in a lakefront house about what had happened. The woman immediately called 911. Wilder said she told detectives she came to the rear of her home after she saw Norwood swimming near her house.
When Daryl Hicks realized what had happened, he jumped into the lake to try to rescue his son, Wilder said. But Hicks didn't find his son.
One of the watercraft, the Yamaha, continued to spin in circles after the impact. It had minor damages to the bottom of the craft.
Hicks' Kawasaki was damaged in the steering wheel area, said Wilder.
"It looks like it's totaled to me, inoperable," he said.
Sheriff's deputies, Lakeland police and Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission officers were at the lake, and searchers were focusing on an area about 200 yards from the Lake Gibson Park Road boat ramp. Wilder said the water is about 4 feet to 8 feet deep in that area.
State law says boaters between the ages of 14 and 21 can operate personal watercraft if they complete a boating safety course, Wilder said. He didn't know whether the boys had taken the course.
Margarita Martin-Hildago can be reached at [email protected] or 863-294-4639.