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Drowning tragedy: Reminder to heed warning, danger signs

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Signs warning swimmers of the dangerous current at Longboat Pass are scattered throughout the area. The April 22 discovery of a 6-year-old, who drowned in the pass, is a reminder for the need to pay attention to warning signs. Islander Photo: Mark Young

It was a frantic three-day search for 6-year-old Lomontea Taylor, but it was only hours after the boy went missing at Coquina Beach that authorities knew the search had turned from rescue to recovery.

Lomontea went missing on the evening of April 20 when he and his siblings slipped into the dangerous waters of Longboat Pass.

The strong current almost immediately began sweeping the children away.

According to the final Bradenton Beach Police Department report, four children entered the water near the wood-and-rock jetty. When the first officer responded to the area he saw a large group of people gathered and a female, later identified as Lomontea’s mother, screaming, “My baby is missing, he’s still out there.”

Sea-bound units from the U.S. Coast Guard Station Cortez arrived, followed by air units from the Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

In short time, Manatee County Marine Rescue, Longboat Key Police Department, BBPD, Westside Fire Rescue District and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission personnel had swarmed the area, but the boy was not to be found.

Witnesses, who managed to pull three of the four children from the water, reported that the current was pulling the children to the south into Sarasota Bay.

At approximately 10:09 a.m. on the morning of April 22, four marine units from FWC and a MCSO marine patrol unit were still searching for Lomontea when one of the FWC boats happened upon the boy’s floating body.

He was pulled from the water and taken to the Manatee County Marine Rescue building on the bayfront at Coquina Beach, where the 12th District medical examiner arrived to officially pronounce Lomontea as deceased.

His body was discovered about three-quarters of a mile from the pass in Sarasota Bay.

Lead investigator from the BBPD Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz said the preliminary cause of death is drowning and there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

Diaz said the incident is a reminder of the importance to heed warning signs and to take personal responsibility.

“The signs at Longboat Pass are there for a reason and marked so everybody knows that there are strong currents,” said Diaz. “When that water comes around the curve at that speed it creates an undertow. It’s really strong out there and even adults have problems with it.”

Diaz said an adult male drowned in the same area a few years ago.

“There’s a good chance you are going to get swept away if you enter that water,” said Diaz. “If adults have a problem with that current, imagine the struggle a child of his age will have. Add the undertow that is there and someone who doesn’t know what to do, he’s absolutely going to struggle. And that’s what happened.”

Diaz said the beach is a place for families to enjoy the sun and water, “but keep an eye on your kids and know where they are at all times. Respect the signs. They are there for a reason.”

Diaz said the drowning of Lomontea is an unfortunate tragedy and an example of what happens when parents aren’t watching their kids.

Lomontea and his siblings were being supervised by two family members ages 15 and 16, according to the report, but the majority of his family was at a picnic area located a short distance away from the water.

“Anyway you see it, it’s a tragedy,” said Diaz.

Diaz said he is grateful to all the law enforcement and  rescue agencies that responded quickly and professionally to the incident.

“The response was professional and an enormous amount of resources were used, but nothing was going to change the outcome,” said Diaz. “After so many hours of not finding the child, it became a recovery search.”

In addition to the agencies responding, a number of volunteers in boats and using personal watercraft assisted in the search on the day Lomontea went missing.

Diaz said if it wasn’t for the resources devoted to the effort, Lomontea may have never been found.

“If it wasn’t for them, there is a good chance we would have never found him,” he said. “Because of the resources dedicated to the search, we were able to at least provide closure for the family.”

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