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    Around the state

    Compiled from Times wires
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 28, 2002


    Manatee deaths in 2002 have already set record

    ST. PETERSBURG -- While boaters and environmental activists have been feuding over manatee protection, the animals have been dying at a record pace.

    With three months left in 2002, the number of manatees killed this year by boats has broken the record of 82 set three years ago, officials at the Florida Marine Research Institute said Friday.

    This week, the 83rd manatee to be killed by boats died at SeaWorld, where it was being treated. The female was rescued from the Indian River in Brevard County on July 23 after suffering fractured ribs and deep propeller wounds across its back, according to Tom Pitchford of FMRI. A lung infection killed it, he said.

    The largest number of manatees counted in the wild is 3,276, double the number 30 years ago.

    Boaters' rights groups have argued that the rise in manatee deaths simply results from an increasing manatee population.

    Save the Manatee Club officials contend there is no evidence the population has increased to the point that manatees are safe from extinction, and that nothing justifies the suffering inflicted on them.

    Passengers' quarrel brings airliner back to Orlando

    ORLANDO -- A Spirit Airlines flight bound for New York returned to Orlando International Airport after an onboard dispute between two men of Middle Eastern appearance and a group of Hasidic Jews, officials said.

    A Spirit Airlines spokeswoman said that shortly after Flight 1864, with 134 passengers, departed for New York at 3:35 p.m. Thursday, one of the two young men walked to the bathroom in the back of the plane. As he passed a group of at least two dozen Hasidic men and women, something was said and a heated exchange followed.

    Airline spokeswoman Laura Bennett said four in the Hasidic group had chosen not to board the plane because of the two men.

    The pilot discussed the incident with the control tower, which decided to return the flight to Orlando. Pilots made a U-turn 3 miles south of Jacksonville.

    All passengers got off, and an FBI agent conducted interviews. Pam Salerno, an FBI spokeswoman, said no one was detained.

    Bennett said the plane finally took off again at 9:45 p.m.

    The two men, whose names were not released, live in the Orlando area and are not of Middle Eastern descent, Bennett said.

    They took a Friday morning flight to New York.

    Mother won't be charged in toddler's beating death

    BARTOW -- The mother of a toddler police say was beaten to death by a babysitter won't face charges.

    There's no evidence for criminal charges against Jeanna Swallows, whose 2-year-old son, Alfredo Montes, was killed in July, prosecutors said in court Thursday.

    Swallows left the children in the care of Richard Chouquer, 24, and Amandy Lawrence, 21, on June 28. Prosecutors say that on July 1, Chouquer beat Alfredo to death. Chouquer was indicted on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. Lawrence is charged as an accessory.

    Authorities investigated Swallows on allegations that she neglected Alfredo before his death.

    Swallows is trying to regain custody of a 4-year-old daughter.

    5-month-old dies after being left alone in car

    DELTONA -- A 5-month-old boy died after being left alone in the back seat of a car almost 90 minutes, police said.

    Angel Frank Pirgo was left in the car Thursday afternoon when a family returned from a grocery store, unloaded the food and forgot about him, investigators said.

    A relative found Angel, unconscious and with no breath or pulse, shortly after 4 p.m. Paramedics tried for 20 minutes to revive the child before he was pronounced dead at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial in Orange City.

    Deputies notified Angel's mother, Angela Morales of Elizabeth, N.J., of her son's death. The baby had been staying here with his grandmother.

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