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Student hit by car had darted into road, police say

By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published January 6, 2007


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TAMPA - By the time Charles Miller saw the high school student crossing busy Florida Avenue, it was too late.

Miller, 62, was headed north near the intersection of Osborne Avenue, when a 15-year-old Hillsborough High School sophomore darted in front of him on Friday, police say.

Miller slammed on his brakes, but his car struck the student, Withdierma Martinez, tossing her up onto the pavement, police and witnesses say.

"She basically fell onto the ground, and they weren't sure how she was doing, but she was conscious, just not very responsive," said police Officer Lisa Parashis.

Police initially said Withdierma was alert and able to speak with emergency workers, but she was listed in serious condition Friday afternoon at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital.

Investigators say Miller was driving no faster than 20 mph when the accident occurred, and he will not face charges. A crossing guard who witnessed the accident estimated Miller was driving about 10 mph, police say. He had a green light, and Withdierma crossed the street about 150 feet north of the crosswalk, Parashis said.

Miller, who has a clean Florida driving record, told police he often drives that route and slowed because he sees a lot of children and teens cross near that intersection.

A crossing guard is posted at the intersection, but he told police that kids often ignore his pleas to cross at the corner.

Kirit Patel, 46, works at the Gita Food Store, a convenience store on the west side of Florida Avenue. He was working about 7 a.m. when he heard a loud boom.

He walked outside to see the teen lying in the street. He saw the car's driver stop and several onlookers gather near her.

High school students often cross the road to buy snacks at the food shop, and they don't always use the crosswalk, he said.

George Betancourt, 47, owns the Coin Operated Laundry next door to the food store. He saw the car hit Withdierma.

The impact was hard enough to knock off her shoes and send her cell phone flying, he said.

Betancourt hopes students will learn from the accident and pay more attention to traffic.

"I see them all day long, all hours of the day," he said. "I don't know what can be done."

A school resource officer made an announcement to Hillsborough High students at the end of school Friday, said school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe.

"The school resource officer talked to kids about crossing at crosswalks, listening to what crossing guards say," she said. "We certainly have had too many kids struck crossing the street in the last two years."

Researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 226-3373 or vansickle@sptimes.com.

[Last modified January 6, 2007, 01:05:09]


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