Florida Rowing Club Boat Capsizes After Lightning Strike, Search Underway for Student Missing

by Caitlin Berard

On Thursday afternoon, a group of five Florida students met at the North Orlando Rowing Facility on Lake Fairview for rowing club practice. As is typical for Florida, a lightning storm soon broke out. But before the rowing club students could make their way back to shore, their boat capsized.

At this time, investigators remain unsure if the boat itself was struck by lightning or if it struck nearby, causing the boat to sink. In a press conference following the tragic event, Orlando Fire Department Executive Deputy Chief Ian Davis explained what he could.

“The rowing club was on the lake practicing,” he said. “There was a lightning strike in the area. We’re unsure if it actually hit the vessel or was just in the area. The boat was capsized.”

Three of the five children were sent home safely with their parents. A fourth child was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. The fifth, unfortunately, went missing. The child’s age and school remain undisclosed; however, the rowing club is open to those aged 12-18.

Divers Search for Missing Child From Capsized Rowing Club Boat

According to Chief Davis, divers and rescue workers from multiple agencies arrived on the scene to search the area for the missing child from the capsized rowing team boat. “We’re going to use every diver that we have to see if we can locate the missing child,” he said. “If I have fresh divers, I’m going to keep on searching.”

The dive teams searched all the way through the night. The Orlando Fire Department’s dive teams completed their search just before two in the morning, at which point the Seminole County dive crews took over, this time with sonar technology.

Locating the missing student isn’t as easy as it might appear. Though the rowing club boat capsized in a lake, there are still currents with “the ability to move the victim,” according to Chief Davis. To combat this, diving crews are searching back and forth across the lake to ensure they don’t miss anything.

As the search continued, the South Orlando Rowing Association posted a statement on Facebook. In it, they sent a few touching words of encouragement to their sister club. “Our hearts go out to our friends at North Orlando Rowing,” they wrote. “Geronimo and his entire team have been true friends to our club. We are asking that all of our rowers, parents, and anyone else who views this post has them in their thoughts.”