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    By Times staff reports

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 3, 2001


    Two children die in drowning accidents

    TAMPA -- Zachary Steinig was never able to breathe on his own again after he fell into his family's spa Sunday afternoon, officials said.

    The 18-month-old was pronounced dead just before midnight Sunday, about 10 hours after he wandered out the back door of his Town 'N Country home. His mother, Kathy Steinig, found him minutes later. He was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital and hooked up to a respirator, but he never regained consciousness.

    Flower arrangements waited outside the door of the Steinigs' home at 7512 Barry Road in the Twelve Oaks subdivision.

    Another child died Sunday in Hillsborough County's first drowning this year. Kaleb Ramnath, a 20-month-old boy, drowned in a plastic wading pool at his grandmother's house in Brandon after wandering away from his parents.

    Seventy to 80 Florida children die each year in similar accidents.

    Condition improves for suspect shot at store

    ST. PETERSBURG -- The condition of a 20-year-old man who was shot when he allegedly attempted to rob a convenience store Friday was upgraded Monday from critical to serious, Bayfront Medical Center officials said.

    Lorenzo Darlington was shot twice in the upper body by a clerk at Food Max, 1400 18th Ave. S, while the owner opened the cash register, police said.

    Witnesses said he was shot in the head and in the rib area.

    Woman severely burned after dropping lighter

    BRANDON -- An 81-year-old woman was critically burned Sunday night when she dropped a burning lighter in her lap.

    Mary Keller was trying to light a cigarette on the back porch of her home at 1210 Cedar Tree Lane about 6:40 p.m. She dropped the lighter, and the blanket wrapped around her legs caught fire, said Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter.

    Keller, who uses a wheelchair, could not get up and suffered third-degree burns over much of her body. Carter did not know whether Keller was home alone at the time of the accident.

    Keller was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital. She was in critical condition in the burn unit Monday night.

    Trial begins for 11 sailors in drug smuggling case

    TAMPA -- Another group of Colombian sailors went on trial Monday on charges of trying to smuggle tons of cocaine north through the eastern Pacific.

    This time, the case includes a confidential informer, two speed boats, 8,000 pounds of cocaine afloat in the ocean, a captain who may have jumped overboard and a defense theory that some of the men were kidnapped and forced to crew the boats.

    It is the latest in a series of prosecutions that began last year after the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard teamed up to seize 19 tons of cocaine and arrest more than 50 sailors off South America.

    The U.S. Coast Guard busted the boats Nov. 26 after a confidential informer, who is expected to testify, tipped off the FBI about the boats' routes and schedules, federal prosecutor James Muench told the jurors during opening statements.

    The 11 defendants are Jesus Ramires-Jalberes, Elmer A. Zuniga-Santana, Gerardo Benitez-Cortez, Carlos Valencia Michileno, Victor Lucilo Vivero-Renteria, Jose Valencia, Cesar Augusto Marin-Martinez, Andres Cuero-Rodriguez, Aurelio Quinones-Portocarrero, Jose Nelson Cuero and Cesar A. Santiesteban-Grueso.

    Driver injured after car hits slow-moving train

    TAMPA -- As a CSX train inched across four-lane Adamo Drive on Monday night, traffic stopped in front of the flashing crossing arms -- except for one car.

    A westbound red compact car hit the brakes a few feet before the gates, skidded and plowed through them into the train.

    "The train was going pretty slow," said Nick Manikis, a trucker who saw the accident from the eastbound lanes.

    Manikis said the car ran into the tanker of the train, just behind the engine. The train continued down the track for at least a dozen car lengths before it could stop.

    The accident could have been a lot worse, officials said. Although the front of the car was crushed by the impact, the train did not drag it.

    Paramedics arrived minutes after the 7:33 p.m. crash, but it took rescuers 20 minutes to free the driver, who was alone. Once freed, the man was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital.

    Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade said the 43-year-old injured man was conscious and alert during the entire rescue. He suffered serious leg and chest injuries, but they were not life-threatening, officials said. His name was not released Monday.

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