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Parents lash out at county

Six of the eight teens in a fatal crash remain hospitalized as questions about an unmarked median continue.

By ABBIE VANSICKLE and KEVIN GRAHAM Times Staff Writers
Published October 11, 2006


 
Morgan Blazek
Angela Canessa
Cody Neimeier
Christopher Terlizzi
 
Tyler Clark
Ryan Caldwell
Shane Hadsell
Brooke Tappen

VALRICO - Angela Canessa can't move her arms or legs. A bone in her neck is broken.

She improves each day, but the 16-year-old Bloomingdale High student is a long way from the limber cheerleader who climbed into a Jeep on Saturday with seven schoolmates for a late-night McDonald's run.

Her father, Ben Canessa, blames the county for the accident, which killed 17-year-old Tyler Clark.

"That's their fault," Canessa said Tuesday. "They've got to pay for it - the boy's dead. That's their fault. That's why the boy is killed and my daughter's in the hospital."

Canessa, 61, joined others who wonder why a new median at the scene of the fatal accident was left unmarked and unpainted, making it hard for drivers to see at night. "It's like somebody put a stone in the middle of the street, and you're supposed to stop for it," he said.

The accident happened early Sunday. The following day crews painted the nose of the median and added a barricade and reflector pole.

The median carves out a turn lane for Plaza Bella, a new shopping development east of Bloomingdale Avenue and Bell Shoals Road.

What remained unclear is whether construction plans required the developer to paint the median when it was installed last week.

County officials say the developer was required to follow state guidelines. But they say it is not clear just what those guidelines meant.

Engineers for the county and the developer are reviewing the plans. Even if plans called for paint, the median may have been too new for the paint to stick.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms, who represents the area and is a former teacher at Bloomingdale High, sent an e-mail Tuesday to top county staffers seeking a briefing on the rules governing the installation of new medians.

She said she had heard nothing to indicate the rules were violated. "I haven't found any evidence yet," Storms said. "I think everybody feels awful about it. It's a terrible thing."

Of the eight teens involved in the accident, six remained in local hospitals.

Shane Hadsell, 15, and Ryan Caldwell, 17, were in fair condition at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital. Christopher Terlizzi, 15, Cody Neimeier, 16, and Angela were in fair condition at Tampa General Hospital. No information was available on the condition of Brooke Tappen, 15.

Morgan Blazek, 16, was released from TGH. But her mother, Vicky Blazek, told a reporter she was taking Morgan back to the hospital Tuesday afternoon. Further information was not available.

After the accident, county officials received calls from parents, community members and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office questioning the median.

Bob Campbell, acting director for Hillsborough's Planning and Growth Management Department, said Tuesday that county officials approved plans for the concrete structure. Those plans require construction of the median follow state standards.

But he could not say what the Florida Transportation Department standards were for this project. He said his office is looking into it.

Markings on the plans for the recently built median don't show reflectors or paint, but an index refers contractors to state standards on medians.

The median was so new that county officials had not been called to inspect it, Campbell said.

Even if the plans require paint, it may have been too early for such markings, said Transportation Department spokeswoman Kris Carson. Contractors have to allow time for concrete medians to cure before painting them. Otherwise, the paint won't stick.

David Hurley, founder and president of Landmark Engineering and Survey Corp., the company that designed the median, said it could take up to seven days for the concrete to harden enough for paint to be applied.

The median was completed Friday.

It was about midnight Sunday, when Angela's mother, Cynthia Canessa, called her daughter.

Angela told her mom she would be home soon. She was bringing two girlfriends to stay the night. The Canessas laid out pillows and blankets in the living room of their stucco, suburban home.

Ten minutes later, Angela called back. They were all going to sleep at Cody's place. Not long after, deputies came to the Canessas' door. There had been an accident.

The Canessas went to the scene. "When the car hit, it was like a bomb went off," Canessa said.

Tyler, the driver, was thrown from the Jeep. The Hillsborough Medical Examiner's Officer said Tyler died from blunt head trauma.

Since then, the Canessas and the other parents haven't had much time to talk. They've been at their children's bedsides.

But news of the unpainted median has troubled the families. "I was crying for three or four days," Canessa said. "And now I'm angry."

Times staffers Cathy Wos, John Martin, Bill Varian and Shannon Breen contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 226-3373 or vansickle@sptimes.com

REMEMBERING TYLER

A memorial service for Tyler Clark will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Serenity Meadows Funeral Home, 6919 Providence Road in Riverview. His family has asked that any donations be given to Tampa Police Department's Cops Against Racing on Streets.

[Last modified October 15, 2006, 10:49:35]


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