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    Tampa Bay briefs

    By Times staff reports
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 26, 2002

    Detectives seek suspect in 15 bank robberies

    TAMPA -- Hillsborough sheriff's detectives are searching for a man suspected of robbing 15 banks in three counties.

    In each robbery, the man entered the bank, approached a teller and displayed a handgun before demanding money. The suspect is described as white or Hispanic, between 30 and 35 years old, about 5 feet 7 and 170 pounds. He might be wearing a wig and fake moustache, officials said.

    The most recent robbery occurred at the Bank of America at 2105 W Brandon Blvd. The man fled in a 1998 Ford Explorer, which was later recovered. Other robberies linked to the suspect happened in Hillsborough, Hernando and Pinellas counties.

    Anyone with information should call the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office at 247-8201 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-8477.

    Driver hurt in propane blast in good condition

    TAMPA -- The 51-year-old truck driver injured in a propane gas explosion in Tampa Palms on Monday was recovering and was updated to good condition at Tampa General Hospital on Tuesday, a hospital spokesman said.

    Dennis Schmotzer, a delivery driver with Northside Propane, was filling two tanks Monday afternoon when the leaking gas ignited and exploded. Schmotzer was called a hero by fire officials for thinking to move his truck down the street and away from the flames. The homeowner was not hurt in the blaze. Her poodle, Rousseau, died.

    Officials suspect bacteria in 4-year-old girl's illness

    Pinellas County health officials are trying to find the source of a likely case of E. coli that has sickened a 4-year-old girl.

    All Children's Hospital reported the possible case, as required by law, to the Pinellas County Health Department this week. The hospital sent samples to the state Department of Health lab in Tampa for confirmation, a spokeswoman said.

    If she indeed is infected with the bacteria, it would be the first reported case this year in Pinellas County and the 14th statewide.

    Undercooked beef is usually to blame. "It can be very serious for the individual who has it, and we as a public health department are doing everything we can to find the source of the illness, and make sure no one else is sick with it," said Julia Gill, epidemiological program manager for the county health department. Symptoms range from stomachache and diarrhea to bloody stools.

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