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Body found in bay may be missing teen

Authorities would not confirm the identity of a body found a day after a teen fell off a catwalk of the old Gandy Bridge.

By OLIVIA CLARKE

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 23, 1999


ST. PETERSBURG -- Authorities tentatively identified a body found floating off Gandy Beach on Tuesday as that of a missing 18-year-old.

Carlos Monti fell into Tampa Bay along the old span catwalk of the Gandy Bridge as he was horseplaying Monday morning with his friend Marc Robins, 18.

Monti was looking under the bridge when he lost his balance and fell in the water, according to a police report. Robins jumped in to save him, but they both were carried by the current, south of the bridge. Robins lost hold of his friend because Monti started to panic. Robins managed to swim to South Gandy Beach and called police.

A crabber found a body at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday floating in the water behind Banana Boat Bayside off Gandy Boulevard, said Pinellas sheriff's Deputy Cal Dennie.

Authorities said there was nothing suspicious about the body and no sign of foul play.

The unclothed body had a tattoo on the upper middle part of the back, but authorities would not describe it. Dennie said authorities were using the tattoo to tentatively identify the body as that of Monti, but only the family or dental records could confirm the identity. Dennie said the identification would occur today.

Police searched 12 hours Monday and found only Monti's hat and Robins' shorts and tennis shoes, discarded so they could move more easily in the water.

As loved ones waited together for identification of the body, they prepared for the worst.

Friends and family described Monti as likable and athletic, a B student at Northeast High School with a green belt in Hapkido, an only child with a love of '60s music and dreams of entering the military.

Bob Fischer said his daughter, Jackie Fischer, had been friends with Monti for about two years. The Fischer family is putting together a memorial fund with the help of Northeast High School. He said the money will be used to help with memorial costs and to show the family support. Donations can be sent to the Carlos Monti Memorial Fund through any branch of SouthTrust Bank.

Fischer said that in early June his family invited Monti and several friends to stay at their time-share in Indian Rocks, and they had a good time. He described the teen as a kind, good person who was part of a group of friends who did not drink or party.

"He was always there to help other teens who have problems," he said. "This is a bunch of kids that didn't go out and do a bunch of drinking. . . . They watched and rented videos."

He said friends and family are extremely upset, and Pinellas Park High School and Northeast High School have arranged counseling to help them through the ordeal.

Mike Miller, principal of Northeast High School, said 20 to 25 parents and students gathered at Pinellas Park High School for an hourlong counseling session Tuesday where they shared warm memories of Monti. Miller said Monti's group of friends are afraid the ordeal will separate them. He said they are working to stay connected and to support each other.

Fischer encourages people to support Monti's family by giving to the memorial fund.

Counseling will continue from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. at Pinellas Park High School, at 6305 118th Ave. N, Largo .

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