Kindly gesture leads to death

Published May 22, 2007

BRANDON - Maritza Olortegui was trying to help a neighbor Monday morning when her kind gesture turned into a deadly accident, Hillsborough County sheriff's investigators said.

Olortegui, 50, was driving near her apartment complex at 912 Nina Elizabeth Circle about 8:30 a.m. when she saw Jesusa Chevres, 88, on her daily walk to Wal-Mart.

Olortegui stopped and offered Chevres a ride. Chevres accepted, and when Olortegui reached across the passenger seat to open the door, her foot came off the brake, a sheriff's report said.

The car rolled forward and hit Chevres, deputies said. Chevres was rushed to Brandon Regional Hospital, where she died from her injuries.

"She thought Chevres was going to walk behind the car, so she leaned over to open the door, when in fact the woman had walked in front of the car instead of behind it, " sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

Olortegui will not face charges, Carter said.

Jenna Atherton, 13, of 908 Nina Elizabeth Circle, saw the accident while walking outside her apartment Monday. "It dragged the older woman for about 10 feet. Then the driver got out of the car and started crying, " she said.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Amanda Palleschi can be reached at apalleschi@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2456.