Relatives lose hope as search for missing boaters continues

5:59 PM, Dec 31, 2013   |    comments
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Willie Ragins III pictured with his mother in March 2013.
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Pinellas County, Florida - Like they have on Sunday and Monday, searchers left the Anderson Park boat ramp Tuesday morning intent on finding 43-year-old Willie Ragins and his friend 64-year-old Willie Hightower.

But unlike previous days, relatives who have gathered beside Lake Tarpon no longer hope to see their loved ones alive. Reality has set in and now they pray simply for closure.

"I just want to bring him home and put him at rest," said Saretha Ragins of her son while wiping away tears.

Related Story: Rescue crews still searching for missing Lake Tarpon boaters

Besides law enforcement, private searchers have also joined this effort, some with extensive rescue and recovery experience. Since 1965, John Sanders has assisted law enforcement in Ohio. Today in a pontoon, he crisscrossed the grey waters of Lake Tarpon watching sonar for signs of the missing men.

"I figure the good Lord put me here for this reason and that's why I continue to do this," Sanders said, adding that he wants to help ease the pain of families.

And on a day when tears flowed and hugs were shared, on a day when they should be immersed in their own sorrow, the Ragins family thanks others.

Saretha Ragins said to those who are helping search and to anyone who offered up a prayer, "Thank you so much and may God bless you."

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