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Publicity helps find artificial leg's owner

Published June 7, 2003

[Times photo: Bill Serne]
The artificial leg was found Sunday.
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ST. PETE BEACH - The mystery of the prosthetic leg has been solved.

Last Sunday, a group of volunteers who tend to bird nests and clean the beach on Shell Key, near Tierra Verde, found something unusual in the sand: a prosthetic left leg complete with a Reebok sneaker. The group placed a classified ad in the St. Petersburg Times, which resulted in a newspaper story.

On Thursday night, Cindy Herndon's phone rang. A friend had just seen a story on the TV news about the leg.

Herndon, 40, of Tampa knew the rest of the story.

She and her boyfriend, Dave Dixon, 42, of Orlando had gone out to Fort DeSoto Beach on Saturday with five other friends.

"We were Jet-Skiing," Herndon said. "He decided to go tubing, and when he came off the tube and hit the water, it came off."

When they went to retrieve the artificial limb, a boat came speeding by and the leg disappeared under the waves.

"A friend of mine got on a Jet Ski, and she spent about an hour searching," said Herndon, who was feeling guilty because she was the one who suggested that Dixon go tubing. "We were trying to figure out which way the wind was going, which way the tide was going, and there was just no luck."

Figuring the leg was lost to the seas, Dixon went to be fitted for a new one. A prosthetic limb costs thousands of dollars, Herndon said.

Dixon is arranging to get the found prosthesis from Alva Sholty, co-owner of Shell Key Shuttle & Sunset Cruises. Sholty took the volunteers out to Shell Key on his boat last weekend and has held onto the artificial leg for safekeeping.

Herndon knows just what to do with the extra.

"We're just going to keep that in the car as a spare."

- Times researcher Smitha Ballal contributed to this report.

[Last modified June 7, 2003, 06:19:46]

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