MANATEE -- Lamontea Taylor, a 6-year-old Samoset Elementary School student whose body was found Monday after he went missing Saturday night in the waters of Coquina Beach, saved his half-sister's life in powerful currents, family members say.
"Lamontea is a hero," said Amanda Jones, mother of Lamontea's half-sister, Natallie Porter, 5, a student at The Children's Academy of Bradenton.
Lamontea's body was found at 10:09 a.m. Monday three-quarters of a mile west of the southern tip of Coquina Beach in the Gulf of Mexico, by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission searchers, said Detective
Sgt. Lenard Diaz of the Bradenton Beach Police Department.
Lamontea's grief-stricken family gathered at the Manatee County Marine Rescue Headquarters in Bradenton Beach at noon. Lamontea's mother, Laketa Taylor of Bradenton, was given time alone with her son's body.
"I won't describe the moment, but it was very sad," Diaz said. "She identified him."
There was also profound sadness at his school.
"The Samoset family is devastated by this loss," said Principal Pat Stream. "Lamontea was a happy child who was loved by all at our school. We extend our thoughts and prayers to his family and hope for their continued healing and comfort."
The Bradenton Beach Police Department determined Lamontea was one of four children who went swimming around 6 p.m. Saturday in waters approximately 100 feet north of the jetty/wooden pier area at the southernmost part of Coquina Park.
The area is clearly marked "No Swimming" in several languages due to strong currents.
No criminal charges, however, will be filed in the case, which is being considered a horrible accident, Diaz said.
Many family members who dispute the police account told the Herald that the children were swimming not 100 feet, but hundreds of yards north of the posted No Swimming signs but they quickly drifted into the restricted area,
"I wasn't there, so what I know is from other family and my daughter," said Jones, who had dropped her daughter off with Natallie and Lamontea 's father, Charles Porter, for a cookout at the beach.
"Both Charles and Natallie told me that a few kids went in the water, including Natallie, who can't swim," Jones said. "When Natallie struggled, Lamontea held her head above the water until she could be rescued."
A second hero emerges
After the four children went into the water, 31-year-old Ezequiel Isaac Espinosa of Bradenton told police he watched the children drift closer and closer to the south jetty and heard one of the children scream, "Call 911."
He immediately pulled Natallie and two other children out of the water, according to the police report.
Espinoza said he heard another child screaming, "Where is my brother?" but did not see a fourth child in the water.
When the initial 911 call came in at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, officer Michael Bazell rushed to the scene.
After interviewing Espinosa, Bazell interviewed Laketa Taylor and Charles Porter and they told him they were "up in the tree line with several family members and that the children that were swimming were being supervised by older family members."
The parents reportedly told police the older family members were 15-year-olds and 16-years-old. The parents told police they came running as soon as they heard the commotion.
A multi-agency search continued Saturday night until 11 p.m. and all day Sunday.
The American Red Cross brought two trucks on scene Saturday and served the family refreshments and food.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686.