TOM VAUGHT | SUN
The family of Lamontea Taylor listens as Bradenton Beach
Police Chief Sam Speciale tells them what has happened.
After two days of searching the waters between Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, the family of Lamontea Taylor was seeking new areas of shoreline in which to look.
But when the police chief showed up Monday morning, the cautious optimism turned to despair.
Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale walked up to Lamontea’s mother, Laketa Taylor, put his hand on her shoulder and gave her the bad news. Her son’s body had been recovered 3/4 miles west of Longboat Pass by searchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Plans were made quickly to bring the body to the Manatee County Marine Rescue Headquarters at Coquina Bayside. As the family watched the boat come in, Laketa’s composure had come to an end and she broke down and sobbed.
The young Samoset Elementary School student disappeared around 6 p.m. Saturday as his family was enjoying a cookout. After he disappeared, authorities launched a search that went until dark and resumed again Sunday morning.
Members of Lamontea Taylor’s family say he was a hero before he drowned. Amanda Jones, mother of Lamontea’s half sister, Natallie Porter, 5, said her daughter was also in the water and she told her mother he helped keep her head above water as they were swept along by the current, according to sources at the scene.
A passerby, Ezequiel Isaac Espinosa, 31, of Bradenton, pulled Natallie and two other children from the water, but they could not find Lamontea.
Searchers from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Bradenton Beach Police, Longboat Key Police and Florida Fish and Wildlife searched all day, and around 3 p.m. Sunday, Bradenton Beach Sgt. James Gill said it had changed from a rescue to a recovery.
Monday morning, family members were anxious to search shorelines in hopes that he was only unconscious and would be alive when found. Then they got the news.
Head Lifeguard Capt. Joe Westerman said the region near the pass is well known as dangerous.
“For as long as I can remember, and I have been with the county for 25 years, that area of our beach has never been open to swimming,” he said. “To add to the problem Saturday, there were rip tides and a high surf, so the current was stronger than normal.”
Westerman said the lifeguards had gone home for the day, but Rex Beach and another lifeguard came back and searched in a personal watercraft Saturday night.
Speciale called for a grief counselor for the family after the body was recovered. He was visibly shaken after notifying the mother that her son was dead.
“This is never easy,” he said. “I feel sorry for her and hope the family can recover from their loss.”
Bradenton Beach Detective Lenard Diaz said no charges would be filed in the drowning and they are treating the incident as a “terrible accident.”