ANNA MARIA — As a heartbroken family waited on the beach about 9 a.m. Sunday morning, a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Marine boat found the body of a missing 14-year-old boy from Winter Haven in Polk County.
The body of Dushay Nelson was found in the Gulf of Mexico, in the general area where he had been seen struggling with rip currents about 5 p.m. Saturday, on a stretch of surf opposite Willow Avenue on Anna Maria Island.
“His body was located not far from where he was reported to have entered the water,” said Lt. Barry Overstreet of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
Just after 9 a.m., a phone call alerted Dushay’s extended family, which had been sitting on the beach near the Willow Avenue bridge since about 7 a.m, Sunday awaiting word on the recovery.
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Darkness had halted a recovery operation Saturday night.
There were screams as the family learned the body had been found.
“The family was taken to the sheriff’s office’s marine unit on Coquina Beach and they were placed with a victim’s advocate,” Overstreet said.
Family members were too distraught over their loss to speak to media Sunday.
Anna Marie Island resident Sam Castellano’s daughter, Jennifer Porter, was an eyewitness to Dushay’s accident.
“She was in the water near where they were,” Castellano said. “Suddenly, there was so much activity, like a frenzy, that she thought it was a shark attack. People were trying to help. He was caught in the current.”
Celeste Poggioli, Castellano’s cousin visiting from New York, said a rescuer screamed to a nearby youth to let him use a boogie board to try to reach the disabled swimmer.
“But the child wouldn’t let him use the board,” Poggioli said.
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Rescue workers were to resume the search Sunday morning for a 14-year-old Winter Haven boy who witnesses say was swept away by currents Saturday afternoon while wading in the Gulf off Anna Maria.
The search for the missing swimmer, identified by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office as Dushay Morales from Winter Haven, was with his family visiting the area.
Deputies responded to a call at about 5 p.m. Saturday about a missing swimmer in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of Willow Ave., just south of the Sandbar Restaurant, in Anna Maria, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow.
Witnesses told deputies a boy was swept underwater by the current. "We are still searching," said Bristow earlier that evening.
The boy's 12-year-old brother was caught in the current but someone was able help the boy to shore and he is OK, Bristow told the Herald.
The boys were only in knee-deep water when they were caught in the current, witnesses said. Agencies assisting in the search include the Sheriff's Office, the Coast Guard and the Florida Fish
and Wildlife Commission. In addition to boats and divers, three helicopters were involved in the search, Bristow said.
Troy Morgan, who lives in the area, arrived on the scene shortly after the incident took place. He saw the family crying.
"They were heavily distraught," said Morgan.
He said the talk among locals is for the need of more infrastructure for the beach including lifeguards, signage and patrols.
Some visitors on the beach looked out into the water, while younger children played on the sand on shore.
Parents Jeff and June Lassetter, who are vacationing from Macon, Ga., came to the beach to watch the sunset and were taken aback by the search and rescue squad.
"I figured something was up," said June.
The couple brought their three children to the beach with them. Jeff sympathized with the parents and said he hopes the boy is found.
"I feel for the parents," said Jeff.
The Lasseters are here for the week, but the unfortunate event has altered their trip.
"My kids may not see the water this week," said June.
Janey Tate, Herald reporter, can be reached at 745-704 or on Twitter @Janey_Tate..