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    Victim of auto crash always had smile, joke

    By MICHAEL SANDLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published December 14, 2001

    LARGO -- Andrew Miller was a big man who found pride in transporting people who could not walk. With a joke, a voice or a funny face, he always kept the journey light and lively.

    "He could make you laugh at the saddest moment of your life," said Amy Miller-Finn, his sister.

    She now is facing that moment, but without her brother's warm humor to consol her.

    Miller, 21, of 5410 68th Way N, St. Petersburg, died Tuesday after his car struck a 40-foot utility pole off Starkey Road in Largo.

    The family learned afterward that emergency workers found him breathing but had to wait 37 minutes for Florida Power workers to arrive and shut off a live, 7,200-volt distribution power line that had landed on the car. The workers were 5 to 7 miles away in Bardmoor and were called twice. Miller stopped breathing 13 minutes before they arrived, officials said.

    "We really don't know what to say," said Miller-Finn. "What can we do? They did wrong. It took them forever to get down there."

    Louise Bell of the medical examiner's office said the cause of death has yet to be determined and an investigation continues.

    A spokesman for Florida Power said the two workers did their best to reach the accident in time. But he said they do not have the authority to pass through red lights at intersections.

    Pat McGinley, a Largo Fire Rescue district chief, said firefighters are not authorized nor trained to shut off power lines. Without proper training and equipment, the task would be extremely dangerous.

    "It's been hard on our people," said McGinley. "To be put in that position is the worst thing that can happen to an emergency worker. But while that thing is energized, you are looking to get more people killed."

    Miller was on his way to meet his wife and two children at McDonald's in Largo for dinner when he veered off the road.

    He met Jena Miller in Seminole, where they attended middle school together. Now she's left alone to raise a 3-year-old son and a daughter who will be celebrate her first birthday on Saturday.

    "Let them pass the lights," said Miller-Finn. "Let the firefighters learn to turn off the power. Now my sister-in-law has to take care of the two babies."

    Miller stood 6 feet 3 and weighed close to 300 pounds. His sister said he looked like a professional football player and they always talked about his favorite team, the Bucs.

    He drove a van for Wheelchair Transport in Clearwater, a job he held for about six months. Friends said he enjoyed making his passengers laugh with jokes and crazy antics.

    "Anyone can get a job doing that," said friend Kevin Blanck. "But unless you really care about people, you will not last two weeks."

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