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Backing truck kills trash collector
By THOMAS LAKE
Published May 26, 2007
PORT RICHEY - Michael Donehoo was surfing the Web in his socks early Friday morning when outside he heard the roar of an engine.
Then a scream.
Two screams. The first was horrible enough. It was quickly eclipsed by the second, even more piercing and high-pitched - the sound of a man being crushed by a garbage truck.
Donehoo, a 45-year-old computer specialist, ran down Chatam Lane in Regency Park without shoes, following the noise.
He saw the driver holding his hands over his mouth.
"Oh my God, " the driver said. "Walt!"
Walt was Walter Lee Jones, 28, recently of Miami and more recently of New Port Richey, a garbage loader who mysteriously fell off the back of the truck as it drove in reverse about 1:30 a.m. Friday, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report. Donehoo said the right rear wheels rolled over Jones somewhere between his thighs and his hips.
The driver, Christopher A. Dellaquila, a 46-year-old Holiday resident, was not charged in the incident. The FHP report said the investigation would continue. Witnesses said he was driving for J.D. Parker & Sons of New Port Richey. No one answered the phone at company headquarters on Friday.
Alfred Thomas, a man who called himself an experienced garbage collector who came to the scene after the accident, said companies he has worked for prohibit their drivers from going in reverse when loaders are riding on the back. Even then, he said, reverse is usually reserved for dead ends and cul-de-sacs.
The accident happened on a straightaway.
* * *
Donehoo saw Jones lying on the asphalt, the lower half of his body under the chassis of the truck. There was blood near him but he wasn't bleeding heavily.
"Oh, God, " Donehoo heard him say. "Please somebody help me."
Donehoo ran inside and grabbed a pillow and a blanket. He came back, put the blanket over Jones, lifted his head and laid it on the pillow. He held his hand. Donehoo knew it was over, and he wanted Jones' final minutes to be as comfortable as they could be.
Two women came to help and they all stayed by him, and whenever he closed his eyes they yelled his name and he opened them again. They knew they shouldn't move him.
"Walter, " Donehoo said. "Do you have family?"
"I have family in Miami, " Jones said.
Other garbage collectors began arriving, somehow informed of the accident. Someone said Jones' girlfriend was nearby.
The ambulance came after a few minutes. The rescuers dragged Jones onto a board.
Just before they put him in the ambulance, Donehoo called out.
"Walter! You're going to be okay, man!"
Their eyes locked, and Donehoo saw fear. Then the ambulance took him away.
Jones was pronounced dead at Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey a few minutes after 2 a.m.
Donehoo went home and tried to sleep. But about once an hour, he awoke to the phantom sound of screaming.
Thomas Lake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.