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Father, 4-year-old son die in boating incident in Braden River

  • By Jim DeLa
  • | 1:15 p.m. April 15, 2024
  • | Updated 4:45 p.m. April 15, 2024
  • East County
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A father and his young son died in a boating accident April 13 on Ward Lake in east Manatee County, state authorities said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the bodes of Wayne Raber, 36, and Josiah Raber, 4, of Wilmot, Ohio, were recovered from behind the water treatment facility on Ward Lake, a freshwater reservoir fed by the Braden River.

FWC officers and Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies responded that Saturday afternoon shortly before 2 p.m. to a report of an incident involving a single boat on the lake, an FWC spokeswoman said.

The body of one victim was found in the water near the boat Saturday, authorities said. Searchers marshaled at Jiggs Landing, according to Denise Kleiner, who manages concessions at the preserve. “They searched all weekend,” she said.

On Monday, April 15, the second body was found in the water near where the incident occurred, the FWC said. 

Kleiner said fishermen often navigate into a lagoon behind the treatment plant to catch shad using cast nets. However the FWC is not releasing details on its investigation.

“The investigation is ongoing. The cause of this incident is still under investigation,” FWC spokeswoman Hailee Seely said via email.



Jim DeLa

Jim DeLa is the digital content producer for the Observer. He has served in a variety of roles over the past four decades, working in television, radio and newspapers in Florida, Colorado and Hawaii. He was most recently a reporter with the Community News Collaborative, producing journalism on a variety of topics in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties; and as a digital producer for ABC7 in Sarasota.

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