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FHP awaiting blood test results

If the test shows the driver of a vehicle that hit a 12-year-old girl took prescription drugs, he might face a DUI charge.

By CAMILLE C. SPENCER
Published May 4, 2007


First he told state troopers that a bike cut him off. But neighbors said there wasn't one.

Then Jose Martinez said something was wrong with his tires. Troopers inspected them and found nothing.

Now the Florida Highway Patrol is awaiting test results on whether Martinez, 58, was impaired when he veered off the road Wednesday afternoon, hitting a 12-year-old girl and crashing into a house.

Martinez told a reporter on Wednesday that he took Xanax, an antianxiety drug, on Tuesday night, and Ativan, another antianxiety drug, the morning of the accident. Ativan can cause drowsiness and dizziness.

"If there's anything in his blood stream, prescription or not, that causes impairment, he could be charged" with DUI, said Trooper Larry Coggins of the FHP. "A lot of times, people think alcohol or illegal drugs are the only things that can get you a DUI. Any substance that causes impairment can ultimately result in a DUI arrest."

The results of the blood test could take several weeks, Coggins said. If the results show Martinez was not impaired, he could still face a civil infraction of carelessness with serious bodily injury.

The girl he hit, Alyssa Tippett, remained in the intensive care unit at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg on Thursday. Her family declined to release any information about her condition, but officials at Alyssa's school said she was critical but stable.

Alyssa, a seventh-grader at Chasco Middle School, was walking on the sidewalk along Bramblewood Drive in Orchid Lake about 4 p.m. Wednesday when she was hit by Martinez's car. She was dragged up the driveway, trapped under the car's muffler.

Neighbors sprang into action to save her. They jacked up the car and wedged concrete under its wheels. Alyssa was pinned under the car somewhere between five and 10 minutes.

Grievance counselors were on hand Thursday at Chasco Middle to talk to classmates who were shaken up by the accident.

About 75 teary-eyed students stopped by to talk. Some made cards for Alyssa. Others made nylon bracelets, with the colors blue, green and red woven together. They stood for strength, courage and hope.

"A lot of them were upset, and some asked why this happened, " said Debra Davies, a counselor. "She was a well-liked child, and she always had a group of friends around."

Alyssa's accident isn't the first time her family has dealt with tragedy. Her mother, Sandra Marie Mathews, died in 2004. Alyssa lives with her grandmother, Grace Taylor.

Still, Alyssa did well in school. She has been a student of the month several times while she was at Calusa Elementary School and Chasco Middle.

While Alyssa recovered on Thursday, school officials wished for the best.

"It was an emotional day for all of us, " said Larry Albano, principal at Chasco Middle.

"We hope in the next few days, things turn out okay."

Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this story. Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.