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Around the state

Zephyrhills brush fire does minimal damage

By Times wires and staff reports
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003

ZEPHYRHILLS -- A brush fire Saturday burned 10 acres off 23rd Street, but firefighters put it out before it reached any buildings.

Zephyrhills fire Capt. Warren Errickson said the fire started about 2 p.m. and threatened several nearby mobile homes. But it was generally slow-moving. The fire, north of Otis Allen Road, took 45 minutes to put out, Errickson said.

Hernando County man dies when car overturns

HERNANDO BEACH -- A 37-year-old Hernando Beach man died after a Friday night accident in which he lost control of his station wagon and ran off the road, authorities said.

Rodney J. Cooper, who lived on Dez Prez Drive, died in the crash on Osowaw Boulevard, south of Hernando Beach.

Cooper was driving north on the boulevard when his 2001 GMC station wagon ran off the left side of the road and overturned, trapping him in the vehicle, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Two Hernando County sheriff's deputies cut Cooper's safety belt and got him out of the car. He was taken to Oak Hill Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after midnight.

Former Miami Herald political editor dies

MIAMI -- John McDermott, the Miami Herald's former political editor whose support of open government helped lead to Florida's Sunshine Laws, has died. He was 86.

McDermott died in his sleep Friday at a Fort Lauderdale hospice, the Herald reported Saturday.

As political editor from 1952 to 1980, McDermott covered six presidents and hundreds of local and state elected officials.

"He believed that the way to cover a political campaign was to be at the elbow of the candidate as he went from town to town and crowd to crowd," said Tom Fiedler, the newspaper's executive editor.

But McDermott's friendly nature with politicians did not stand in the way of his protection of a free press, Fiedler said.

In 1967, the state Senate wanted to take up Florida's redistricting plan in secret, but McDermott and three other reporters refused to leave. Bailiffs carried them out of the Senate press gallery, with pictures of the incident being published in newspapers across the state.

"We simply got fed up with the Florida Senate conducting the public business -- a business of the state -- behind closed doors," McDermott said at the time.

Fiedler said the imagery from this incident helped spur legislative reformers to push for laws now on the books that require legislators to conduct their business in public.

McDermott, a native of Vermont, graduated from the University of Georgia and was a correspondent in Europe during World War II. He spent five years as bureau chief of United Press International in Berlin after the war, then reported from the Middle East before being recruited to the Herald.

McDermott is survived by his wife, Violeta, and his three stepchildren: Violeta, Raul and Silvia.

-- Times staff and wire reports

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