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A family outing on a Florida lake turned tragic.

Mechanical problem might have led to boating tragedy

Investigators found two mechanical “issues” Tuesday that may have helped doom a family fishing outing, while a heartbroken Eric Singleton returned to Lake Yale near Eustis to guide divers searching the murky waters for his son and daughter.

One of the problems was a bad cable that affected a device used to dip the vessel’s outboard motor into the water and control the motor’s angle, said Kat Kelley, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The motor was stuck in the “up” position.

Kelley said if Singleton had been trying to fix the 800-pound motor in the back of the boat, the rear of the 15-foot vessel could have filled suddenly with water and sunk quickly.

Singleton, his wife, Michelle, and their three children were plunged into the chilly waters about 300 yards from shore as night was falling Sunday on the 4,000-acre lake.

Singleton, 36, swam with his 3-month-old daughter, Ashley, to shore and spent hours walking through swampy muck before finding help. His wife, 30, and 8-year-old Eric and 2-year-old Katelyn clung to the boat’s bobbing bow.

Rescuers found Michelle Singleton about 200 yards from the sunken boat wearing a life jacket, but there was no sign of Eric or Katelyn, who are presumed to have drowned.

Rescuers found a pair of child-sized life jackets floating on the lake. The jackets were snapped closed, suggesting they hadn’t been used. No life jacket was found for the baby, meaning none of the children wore a flotation device.

Florida law requires all children younger than 6 to wear life jackets aboard smaller boats.

From the Orlando Sentinel

Even a short outing on a lake or river can be deadly. Defects, mechanical problems or the weather can lead to the loss of life. One safety step is the wearing of life preservers at all times.

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