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"I'll get better. I've been banged up a lot of times," Dennis Brablec says. He received several stitches to close the wound caused by the impact of the hood ornament of a car in a hit-and-run accident in Tampa. [Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]

Disabled man back home after hit-and-run accident

A Tampa man says he feels no anger toward the person who ran into his scooter, then drove around him and left.


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 7, 1999

TAMPA -- The impact was sharp and mind-numbingly quick.

One minute, Dennis Brablec was motoring across N 19th Street, the next minute his calf was smack up against a car's bumper and his head was smarting from being knocked onto the hood. "For a few seconds, I wasn't sure of what was going on around me," said the 49-year-old, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair to get around. "I guess the lights kind of went out for me."

But despite his momentary muddle, Brablec said one memory emerged with vibrant clarity: the squeal of a car's tires.

Sheriff's deputies say the sound came from the two-door, light-blue Mazda that had just hit him. The driver, deputies say, backed up after colliding with Brablec, then drove around him and sped away.

The car accelerated quickly as it entered the intersection of N 19th Street and 131st Avenue, where it collided with Brablec, deputies said. By late Tuesday night, the man had not been caught.

Brablec suffered a large bruise on his leg and a cut on his head that required a half-dozen stitches. He was flown to Tampa General Hospital and later released.

Back home Tuesday afternoon at his spare apartment in a federally subsidized complex for the disabled, Brablec said the driver must have been daydreaming not to see him. On his maroon motorized scooter, he said, he is hard to miss.

But Brablec, who has used a wheelchair for nearly 20 years, said he bears no malice for the hit-and-run driver.

"He blew it. He made a dumb mistake. Haven't you made a mistake?" he said, adding, "He won't do it again."

Dan Newsome, a friend who helps Brablec with his daily needs and who helped him out of the taxi that ferried him from the hospital, was not so forgiving.

"He should have stayed there until the law got there. Dennis could have been hurt real bad," he said.

His mother, Inez Brablec, was also unsympathetic.

"It certainly wasn't a very nice thing for him to do," she said. "When you do something like that, you don't run away from it."

Brablec, a native of Michigan, moved to Tampa in the early 1990s to be near his mother, who lives in Carrollwood. He worked on his family's farm and taught American history at a middle school in Michigan until his physical condition deteriorated.

Brablec fills his time surfing the World Wide Web and e-mailing his brothers and other relatives. A couple of times a week, Brablec motors through the streets of his neighborhood near the University of South Florida, stopping at the bank or the drug store, other times heading to the mall for a shopping excursion.

"I can't do things much different than I've been doing them," he said. "I give the cars the right of way, and if they drive where they should, I'll be where I should and we won't have any trouble."

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