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Contractor scrutinized in fatal hit-run

Published July 25, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG — State officials are examining whether a private subcontractor improperly blocked off a public sidewalk, forcing a boy who died in a hit and run accident to walk in the street Sunday.

Greg Jones, chief of civil litigation for the state Transportation Department, said he was starting an inquiry into the blocked sidewalk. Jones said he was not launching a formal investigation, but had instead been asked to look into the matter.

“Permitting is very complex and depends on a lot of factors,” Jones said. “I’m making some phone calls, some inquiries, to find out what happened.”

Department spokeswoman Marian Scorza said Monday the state generally requires contractors to ask for permission before they block off public roads. Scorza said no one asked the department to block that section of 34th Street.

Jones said he could not discuss Transportation Department procedures for blocking sidewalks or any possible penalties because he had just begun his inquiry.

David Pierce died on his 12th birthday Sunday night after walking around the blocked sidewalk near the intersection of 34th Street S and 42nd Avenue S. His friend, 16-year-old Samantha Murray, was seriously injured. The driver of the vehicle that slammed into them didn’t stop.

On Monday, St. Petersburg police arrested Jeffrey Todd Montgomery, 35, saying he was the driver of the Chevrolet Blazer that hit the two pedestrians.

Bill Icely, the contractor on the construction project at the intersection, said a subcontractor, R.J. Longboat and Sons of St. Petersburg, had blocked off the sidewalk to dig to a sewer connection without telling him.

R.J. Longboat and Sons did not respond to several messages seeking comment.

Connie Garriques-Sang, an investigator with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, said R.J. Longboat was not registered as a contractor with county authorities. If a contractor just excavated, or dug into the ground, she said, it would not have to be registered.

But a contractor that makes the hookup to a sewer connection would have to register with her agency, she said.

Garriques-Sang said a company that doesn’t register could be fined or subject to prosecution. Last year, she said more than 500 contractors were fined.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

[Last modified July 25, 2006, 22:48:48]

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