Manuel LaFont, 54, was a proud father, a baseball fan and a business consultant who lived in unit 801 of the Champlain Tower. He was among three others whose remains were identified Saturday night by police after being pulled from the rubble in the Surfside condo collapse.
LaFont had a 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter with his ex-wife Adriana LaFont.
Adriana asked her friends on Facebook to pray the rosary for Manny on Friday. She posted pictures of her family from their years together at the Champlain — baby pictures, birthday parties, beach days and other memories from their eighth-floor condo.
”So many memories inside the walls that are no more today, forever engraved experiences in the heart,” she wrote.
Late Saturday night, Miami-Dade police released the names of four of the five people who were confirmed dead. They are Stacie Fang, 54; Anthony Lozano, 83; Gladys Lozano, 79. LaFont’s remains were found Friday, police said.
Police did not identify the fifth victim. There are still 156 people unaccounted for.
LaFont, a Houston native, coached his son’s baseball team, the Astros, at North Shore Park, just a mile away from the Champlain. He was a parishioner at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Miami Beach. The parish’s school parents gathered Saturday afternoon to pray for LaFont and his neighbors who were still missing.
An alumnus of Sharpstown High School in Houston, his classmates had been sending Adriana messages of support and closely watching the news, waiting for word on him. Sam Olivares, a fellow Sharpstown grad who’d visited LaFont in South Florida before, told Houston’s KHOU-11 that it was difficult to express the shock LaFont’s old friends felt.
“I was talking to my friend Scott on the phone, and we just sat there in silence. There were no words we could come up with this tragic event, especially with somebody you know,” Olivares said. “And to have kids out there waiting to hear about their dad. It’s just overwhelming.”
For three years, LaFont worked across Latin American and the Caribbean for a manufacturing firm, leading a division that focused on roadway safety that built crash cushions and moveable barriers. At an industry conference in 2016, he gave an interview where he talked about why he got into this line of work.
“I got into this industry specifically because I don’t want to sell widgets. I want to help people. I want to do something good in this world,” he said. “When I die, I want to say that my life meant something.”